US climate strike New Orleans


Emma Seely, Managing Editor

On the morning of Friday, Sept 27, Jackson Square was as busy as ever, but there was more going on than the usual drinking and celebrating. At the back of the square, right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral stood the US Climate Strike New Orleans. Spearheaded by 350 New Orleans, Extinction Rebellion New Orleans, Sunrise Movement, Climate Reality New Orleans, Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, Louisaina Bucket Brigade and Sierra Club, this event was as collaborative as it was New Orleans inspired, with diverse speakers leading up to a brass band-led march parading through the french quarter. 


Scheduled exactly one week after the Sept 20 Youth Climate Strikes, this event was designed to work alongside the example set by youth climate activists, but take responsibility into the hands of adults. As march organizer Sue Provost says, “There’s a national push, I think this week for having global climate strikes. [Climate activist] Greta Thunberg is someone who’s been highlighted as a leader of this. I’m very grateful for her and her leadership, and the spotlight on somebody who’s wanting to do good for our climate.”


The work of these climate activists and organizers is crucial, especially now. As march organizer and representative from the group Extinction Rebellion NOLA Renate Heurich explains, we only have a few more years left to limit climate change disaster. 


“We are heading towards a cliff. The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] says 11 years, but that means in 11 years, we have to be at half, 50% carbon neutral. That means starting now, not starting in 11 years,” Heurich says. 


Strike organizers created a list of demands necessary to reach this goal. They included a demand for a Green New Deal that would utilize 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and for protection and restoration of land and oceans, including a stop to deforestation by the year 2030. These demands were laid out on a pamphlet that was passed out to all attendees. 


Participants of the strike similarly understood the dire climate situation and need to create change. At around 11:30, they gathered in the sweltering heat to listen to the march’s planned speakers. Even in the midday sun, many attendees chose to answer strike organizers’ call to wear black, symbolizing the death of land and the extinction of species. Water and snacks were provided by organizers to all participants. 


The first speaker was Angela Comeaux, a Native American activist and march organizer. She spoke about the need to recognize land, and therefore environmental issues, as stemming from the theft of indigenous people’s homes by European colonizers. To help combat some of the destruction, Comeaux calls for those in power to listen to Native American voices, saying “our way of life is to take care of Mother Earth.”


Provost would agree with this, saying that “what [Greta Thunberg] is saying is not new; indigenous children have been saying it for a long time.”


Other speakers included science professors, child activists, residents who experienced health complications as a result of living on polluted land, as well as representatives from a labor rights group. In their speeches, they frequently relayed the importance of these organizations working together to combat shared concerns. Provost agrees that the best way to work towards avoiding climate disaster is through collaboration. 


“It’s like people are coming together who are representing the migrant crisis, who are representing climate, various aspects of it,” says Provost. “And understanding that there’s an intersection amongst all of us. So I love it. It’s like some walls are tearing down.”


After the speeches, the smaller but still steady group of participants began on a festive march through the French Quarter, including a brief walk on Bourbon Street. A Saints rally held at One Shell Square, headquarters of the Shell oil and gas corporation and originally planned destination for the march, forced the group to march back to the amphitheater on the other side of the square for the planned “die-in.” For this, participants pretended to die as dramatically as possible, symbolizing, as Comeaux puts it, “the potential death of the environment if we don’t do something.”


After the die-in, participants were sent off with music from the band. They were also invited to visit Extinction Rebellion’s website to find future scheduled events whose goal is to keep the momentum going. 


Participants were also left with Comeaux’s assurance that the struggle would not be easy, but it would be important to keep up the fight nonetheless. 


“Right now, in history, we can see that people are starting to come together and make a difference. We’ve seen recently in Puerto Rico where thousands of people came together in the streets to get rid of a governor. People are getting fed up. And I think we can do this together.”