IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A 16 year-old Swedish girl, and icon for youth climate change activism, is backing students at the University of Iowa who say the university's power plant needs to go.
More than 3,000 people gathered in the heart of downtown Iowa City on Friday, October 4 to hear from Greta Thunberg. Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist whose campaigning has gained international recognition. After Thunberg spoke at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, student strikes took place every Friday -- a movement now called Fridays for Future.
"We have reached a tipping point where enough people have had enough and together we are unstoppable," Thunberg said to the crowd.
Thunberg, best known for her blunt speeches, decided last-minute to join the Iowa City Climate Strikers. The group is asking University of Iowa President, Bruce Harreld, to stop operating it's coal-burning power plant.
"The University of Iowa students have voted for a climate emergency. Now it is time for the University of Iowa President to step up to that promise and update its old sustainable plan for a climate emergency," climate striker Esti Brady said.
The University of Iowa’s Sustainability Goals, written over a decade ago in 2008, aim for 40% renewable energy by 2020. Iowa City Climate Strikers said those goals are obsolete and instead asked for administrators to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Students also said the University has nearly doubled it's use of natural gas at the power plant. Adding that fracking natural gas "destroys communities, water supplies, and methane emissions from gas are worse than CO2 emissions."
Sophmore at Wartburg College, Sophie Reider, said she came to the rally specifically to see Thunberg. She said she is participating in the school walk-outs, Fridays for Future, to show her support for Thunberg and for this movement.
"We were taught to speak our minds and show our voice," Reider said. "Our world isn’t right and so we’re going to try and make it right. Why would we wait until we’re 30 when we can do it now?"
Tricia Windschitl was also among the crowd at the rally. She said she is a preschool teacher who came to spread a message on behalf of her young students. Windschitl said she was inspired by her own daughter to do more than just recycle.
"They can see things in a way we can’t," Windschitl said. "It’s their future. It’s their earth that they’re going to have to live on and so I think it’s really important to listen to their voices."
Those thousands of voices heard throughout downtown Iowa City with chants calling out "President Harreld - No More Excuses!"
"We teenagers and children shouldn't have to take the responsibility but right now the world leaders keep acting like children and someone needs to be the adult in the room," Thunberg said. "Because the world is waking up and we are the change. And change is coming whether they like it or not."
Thunberg said their voices at the rally are not something you can continue to ignore. The next Global Climate Strike is planned for November 29th.