30 protesters turn out in Kodiak to support global climate strike

Joining millions of demonstrators across Alaska and around the world, Kodiak held its own climate strike on Saturday morning. Roughly 30 protesters turned out on the lawn outside the post office, hoping to spread community awareness and encourage political action on climate change.

Protestors gather outside Kodiak’s post office to advocate for climate action on Sept. 21, 2019. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

Every Saturday morning starting in 2003, Richard Ross and his friends have stood on the lawn outside the Kodiak post office holding a rainbow banner emblazoned with the word “PEACE.”

“10 to 11 [a.m.] every Saturday,” Ross said. “We welcome anybody that believes in peace to come with us.”

This Saturday, Ross’ group was joined by roughly 30 more people than usual, community members inspired by the global climate strike protests to hold their own demonstration in Kodiak. They held cardboard signs reading “Climate change is worse than Voldemort,” and “There is no planet B.” Ross was happy to have the company.

“Oh, absolutely,” Ross said. “Welcome. I think it’s wonderful.”

Ross arrived in Kodiak almost 50 years ago with the Coast Guard, and he said, the rapid environmental changes are seen everywhere, from the low water levels in the rivers this summer to the increasingly mild winters.

“My first couple of years here in the early 70s, Women’s Bay would freeze over,” he said. “We used to have deep snow and cold, zero [degrees] and that, and it’s just warmed and warmed.”

Richard Ross, Mike Williams, and Arlene Simpler stand on Mill Bay Rd. with their “PEACE” banner every Saturday morning to advocate for nonviolence. This time they’re joined by climate strike demonstrators. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)
Michael Hanrahan (right) demonstrates for climate action with Summer Hanrahan Christiansen (center) and Stacy Studebaker (left). (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

Michael Hanrahan, a behavioral health specialist with the Kodiak Area Native Association, has only been in Kodiak four years, but he said, the record-breaking summer heat, plus droughts and wildfires, have put climate change in sharp focus for Alaska.

“I just think it’s the most important issue of our time right now,” he said. “And if we don’t fix this, nothing else matters.”

Holding a sign that read “Denial is not a policy,” Hanrahan also brought up the importance of political action in fighting climate change.

“It’s a national, international issue. So it’d be about who we elect,” he said. “I’d hope that we elect people who are going to take action on climate change,” he added, explaining that the changes he’d like to see include “more investment into renewable energies, less subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, protection of national parks and that type of thing.”

Maya Edgerly holds a sign reading “Earth first” at the climate strike on Saturday. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

Sara Loewen, Casey Lynch, Maya Edgerly, and Tania Silva-Johnson, a group of friends working in education and social work, voiced similar feelings.

“It shouldn’t be a party issue. That’s what drives me crazy,” Silva-Johnson said.

Lynch agreed, adding “That’s something that I’d love to see, not be one team versus the other, that we are all one team together joining to vote to make decisions for our own wellness.”

Holding her daughter Kate in her arms, Loewen added “As a state, we’re seeing the changes before a lot of the rest of the country. So we have the chance to be a voice for ‘Hey, this is happening. And this is what what’s being impacted.’”

All four women said they hope the demonstration makes the community more aware of the impending challenges of climate change. And they hope the sense of collective action in a small community inspires other people to join in the fight.

From left to right, Casey Lynch, Sara Loewen holding her daughter Kate, Maya Edgerly, and Tania Silva-Johnson gather for a photo at Kodiak’s climate strike on Sept. 21. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)
Don Roberts holds a sign at the Sept. 21 climate strike that reads “There is no Planet B.” (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

Don Roberts, a long-time volunteer crossing guard in Kodiak, said that fight is increasingly urgent.

“It’s kind of like driving a car,” he said. “The time to stop the car is before you hit the wall. Sometime before your head goes through the windshield. And we’re getting to the point of no return where whatever we do is never going to be enough.

As passing cars honked in support of the demonstration, he continued, “And we can argue about the causes of stuff, but the fact is we are having climate change. And we have to start doing something to prepare to mitigate the problem and reverse it if we can.”

Around the world, the Global Climate Strike is a largely youth-led protest pushing for rapid solutions to climate change, like ending the use of fossil fuels and providing aid to countries most affected by the environmental shifts.

Across thousands of cities, more than a million young people and their allies turned out on Friday to demand changes ahead of the start to the UN Climate Action Summit on Monday. Similar protests were held in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, with climate strikes in Sitka, Haines and Nome scheduled for later this week.

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