Demonstrators gather to raise awareness about climate change

Aeryn Kauffman, Copy Desk Chief/Opinion Editor

On the corner of University and Wildcat Ways, a small crowd of demonstrators waved at cars and displayed signs reading “Greta Thunberg,” “one planet” and hand drawn sketches of Earth on Friday, Sept. 25. Diesel trucks revved their engines and cars honked loudly as they drove by on the busy intersection. 

Meghan Anderson, an Ellensburg resident and one of the event organizers, said Friday was the day many Global Climate Strikes were held around the country.

According to The Guardian, the Global Climate Strikes were originally organized Sept. 20-27, 2019 and inspired by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. They were previously held across the world to raise awareness about climate change. This year, Sept. 25 was the day of strike organized by multiple climate change awareness organizations across the U.S., and Anderson got involved and helped organize an Ellensburg strike.

Anderson said they were demonstrating to get the attention of the general public as well as the Ellensburg City Council.

“The city council doesn’t appoint the utility to have a planned transition from our natural gas of 5,000 customers,” Anderson said. “They need to have a plan, 10-year transition to equitably transfer those gas furnaces back to electric, and the city council is not appointing the utility to do that.”

According to Anderson, the Ellensburg city utility natural gas service emits over 38,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports this number as 37,998 metric tons for the City of Ellensburg for 2018. The U.S. Energy Information Administration published a report titled “U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions” for 2018, showing an upward trend in carbon dioxide emissions from 2017-18, which can be read here.

“These are real emissions and we need to address them,” Anderson said.

Judy Hallisey, a Cle Elum resident and president of the Kittitas Audubon Society (KAS), a nonprofit focusing on “an appreciation of nature through education and conservation with a focus on birds,” said the KAS sponsored the Friday demonstration. She said climate change is harming bird populations.

“It is causing a shift in habitat. The birds are not adapted to the change in the vegetation which blooms out earlier in the spring, before they migrate. The timing of when the birds arrive and have their young and need to feed their young is out of sync with when the food’s available,” Hallisey said.

Hallisey also said the public needs to realize how climate change is affecting their personal lives, not just the lives of wild animals.

“Birds are warning us that things aren’t right with our environment, and that [if] birds aren’t going to be able to survive in this environment, humans aren’t either,” Hallisey said.

As a retired firefighter, Hallisey said recent wildfires on the western coast of the United States are one consequence of climate change.

“I have been on wildfires throughout the west in the last 45 years,” Hallisey said. “I’ve seen the shift in the fire seasons. I’ve seen the explosive nature of fires that have been occurring over the last 20 to 25 years. The sheer size of the fires has expanded, and it’s all climate change-driven.”

Barry Brunson, a Cle Elum resident and retired mathematics professor for the University of Kentucky, became interested in the Global Climate Strike after reading about the effects of climate change on the planet.

“It’s not a political issue. It’s a question of accepting the science or rejecting the science,” Brunson said.

As a grandfather and father, Brunson said the public should consider future generations of people, and he wants people to know climate change is an issue that isn’t going away.

“Please pay attention to the science. The science is important both for global warming and for COVID-19,” Brunson said. “Scientists should be leading the way, and people should pay attention.”