Triangle Park was bustling with a crowd full of Kansas State students, faculty and other members of the Manhattan community on Friday, Sept. 20. The group gathered in solidarity with climate strikes occurring around the globe.
The rally was spearheaded by Hannah Jones, a veteran who is currently a nursing student at Manhattan Technical College.
“I first heard about the international climate strike through Greta Thunberg,” Jones said. “She was talking about how on Sept. 20 — actually through this whole weekend — people from around the world are going to be striking for the climate. So I thought, ‘Well, why not take the initiative and start a project here?’ I was about to collect my things and drive to Lawrence, but then I thought, ‘That just seems kind of silly. Why would I burn fossil fuels when I can engage my community here?’”
Jones organized the rally with the help of Tim Herrman, a Manhattan resident and graduate from Fort Hays State. They publicized the strike using a Facebook event.
Jones began the rally with an impassioned speech detailing her experience in the Army where she saw how the government treats the environment.
“My experience as a veteran taught me that the government doesn’t care,” Jones said. “It’s more profitable to consume and do what we’re told instead of going against the grain or starting over again from scratch. To fight the climate catastrophe, it’s going to be uncomfortable. It’s going to require confrontation to the highest echelons of power. It means redistributing land and wealth to the people whose labor we exploited and whose land we stole.”
Herrman spoke after Jones, voicing frustration with the waste of the retail system and inadequate adaptation to renewable energy.
“We need to dedicate ourselves to renewable energy and stop burning things,” Herrman said. “It’s the future. There’s things that we can do, we’re not powerless in this — but we need to hold our leaders accountable.”
Jones invited community members who wished to make a statement to come forward and address the crowd with a megaphone.
Ian Boyd, senior in political science at K-State, came forward to go up to speak during the rally.
“Each and every one of you has the ability to make more change than anything else before because this is a large movement,” Boyd said. “This is one of the biggest movements in history because this is not just about one nation, this is not just about one ideal. This is about our future, our future as a planet. And what we can do is continue to do things like this. We can stand together — we can demand that action be taken.”
Boyd, a member of the Sunrise Movement — a youth-led movement dedicated to stopping the climate crisis — advocated for change at a national level and specifically voiced support for the Green New Deal.
Matt Sanderson, professor of sociology at K-State, elaborated on the conflict that surrounds the discussion of climate change.
“It’s very uncomfortable to have talks about climate change because climate change deals with fundamental questions of identity and who you are and where we’re going,” Sanderson said.
After a march through Aggieville, many people stuck around and continued to engage in discussions sparked by the event.
“I’m really happy with the turnout,” Jones said. “Honestly, the turnout was larger than I was anticipating. And I was also very pleased with how many people came up and just spoke on a whim and shared themselves with the group, because that’s what we need. We need individuals in the community collaborating together. And I’m really looking forward to the next time we can come together under an issue as a community and make our opinions and voices known.”