Hundreds of citizens around Central Maine walked away from work, school and prior commitments on Friday to participate in the worldwide call for climate action dubbed the Global Climate Strike.

Colby College in Waterville and Unity College in Unity held marches and rallies early in the day to demand immediate action on climate change along with the more than 1,000 demonstrations that took place across the U.S. and the globe.

More than 100 students and faculty at Colby gathered outside Cotter Union at 10 a.m. and marched to the Miller Lawn where seven speakers addressed the crowd.

Students from Colby College sign a petition supporting the Green New Deal in front of Miller Library as they take part in the worldwide climate strike on Friday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Among the speakers was Jamila Bargach, an activist and scholar who is the 2019 Oak Human Rights Fellow for Colby College. Beside the flagpole on the lawn,

Bargach looked into the crowd of attendees and shared sentiments of hope.

“This is what democracy looks like,” Bargach said. “Finally, we’ve all come together to demand change … Our voices will be heard. We need to continue to carry the flag of hope because it can happen. There’s a possibility for a new future.”

Olivia Blacos, a senior at Colby College, speaks Friday to students in front of Miller Library as part of the worldwide climate strike. Morning sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

In her speech, Annie Lee, a Colby student, emphasized that giving up on climate action is not an option.

“Don’t give in to climate defeatism that is as dangerous as climate denial,” Lee said.

Once the speeches were finished, attendees were invited to sign a banner to commemorate the day’s achievement.

Cindy Nguyen, the co-president of the Citizens Climate Lobby at Colby and one of the driving forces behind Friday’s demonstration, was overjoyed at the way the event played out.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Nguyen said. “Everyone seemed to be impressed. One person told me that it gave them hope so that felt really good. And this is a youth-driven movement, so it’s important that so many people showed up today.”

At Unity, 122 students, faculty members and others who were attending the Common Ground Country Fair gathered to march, hear speeches and celebrate with a locally sourced barbecue.

The demonstration was organized by Kaya Pulz, a senior sustainable agriculture major, who walked 2.5 hours from Burnham to Unity the morning of the strike to further cement her commitment to the Global Climate Strike’s mission.

“I walked because I’m capable. I didn’t need to drive my car here,” Pulz said. “It wasn’t comfortable, but you know, Mother Earth is hurting too. I did it just to further my fight against fossil fuels.”

When Pulz learned of the Global Climate Strike just two weeks ago, she immediately went to college President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury to ask why Unity wasn’t already planning to participate.

“My first thought was why isn’t Unity doing something?” Pulz said. “We’re America’s environmental college. We needed to be a part of this.”

When Pulz addressed the crowd at the campus amphitheater, she made one message perfectly clear.

“We have no time to waste,” Pulz said. “We need to inform people on how to live more sustainably and encourage one another to do so.”

Unity College students, staff and others attending the Common Ground Country Fair took time out Friday to demand action to halt climate change. Contributed photo

Climate activists and activists to end family separation at the southern border of the U.S. combined their numbers at the corners of Main and Temple streets  at 4 p.m. to demonstrate the linkage between the issues of immigration and climate change.

Protest organizers distributed packets to passersby and explained how many people are forced to migrate because of climate change. As an example, the packet claimed that a 2018 drought in Central America that impacted more than 135,000 families forced many to seek refuge in the U.S.

Iver Lofving wears a mask of the Earth as he stands with dozens of people Friday at the intersection of Main and Temple streets in downtown Waterville to demand action to combat climate change and family separation at the southern U.S. border. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“The United Nations estimates that by the year 2050, there will be 200 million people forcibly displaced from their homes due to climate change,” information in the packet said. “Others expect the number to be much higher.”

A 2018 study by The World Bank projects that almost 4 million people from Central America and Mexico could become climate migrants by 2050.

Among the nearly 75 protesters who rallied in downtown Waterville were Morgan Savage, 20, and Talon Davis, 23. Savage and Davis, both Waterville residents, said it’s their passion for climate action and ending family separation that compelled them to participate in the demonstration.

“We only have one Earth and we’re completely destroying it,” Davis said. “Climate change and ending family separation are something everybody should be fighting against. Why can’t we just work together?”

Dick Thomas, an organizer for Friday’s demonstration, called upon officials to begin treating climate change and family separation with the seriousness they both deserve.

“The whole movement is a wake up call,” Thomas said. “It’s a wake up call to get involved and for politicians and officials to start treating it like a crisis, because it is a crisis.”

Friday’s Global Climate Strike coincides with the U.N. Climate Summit which convenes on Monday in New York City.

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