For Juneau-Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé junior Linnea Lentfer, the potentially disastrous effects of climate change aren’t a distant abstraction. They’re a clear and present danger.
Rising and warming oceans will be a major problem by 2100 if climate change trends continue at their current pace, according to NASA. The impact of a climate crisis at the turn of the next century factored heavily into a speech Lentfer delivered Tuesday at the Alaska State Capitol during the Stand Strong for Climate Rally.
“I would be 97,” Lentfer said into the mic. “If I have children, they would be middle-aged. They will grow up in an age where the climate crisis is what governs their lives. Their very ability to live hinges on the decisions we make today.”
Lentfer was one of six people to speak at the rally, which intentionally coincided with the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds annual meeting taking place this week at Centennial Hall. The rally concluded with a downhill march to the venue and a short demonstration in a courtyard outside the building.
Dozens of other Juneau students participated in the rally by holding signs welcoming international representatives to the capital city and urging them to divest from fossil fuels. The event featured plenty of participation from adults, too.
It was organized by local environmental nonprofit 350 Juneau, and speakers included Alaska State Writer Laureate Ernestine Saankalaxt’ Hayes, University of Alaska Southeast professor David Noon, 350 Juneau co-chair Elaine Schroeder, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council indigenous engagement lead Heather Evoy and Inian Island Institute Executive Director Zach Brown.
Each speaker voiced heavy support for everyone, including the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, to stop investing in fossil fuels.
Brown said climate change’s impacts are already evident, and its relationship to burning fossil fuels is no mystery. He called for all investors — the APFC, pension funds and others — to steer clear of fossil fuels.
He pointed to a sign in the crowd held by a young girl that read “Not another penny for dirty energy.”
“Hold up that sign,” Brown said. “That’s what I’m talking about right there.”
Hayes too called for divestment and said the protesters gathered valued nature’s personhood and would not let forces of corruption, colonialism, end-stage capitalism, patriarchy, racism or inequity persevere.
“We are determined to resist,” Hayes said.
She concluded her speech by repeating “divest,” and the crowd joined in.
Noon argued for divestment by drawing historical parallels between removing money from fossil fuels to times nations opted to divest from slave-produced works or economic sanctions placed on apartheid-era South Africa.
“Those movements for abolition, for divestment from South Africa’s caste system, took decades to bear fruit and a lot of that fruit remained bitter and strange for years to come,” Noon said. “We can take some comfort in knowing those movements did prevail. We don’t have the time they had to do what we need to do, so we need to act now.”
After the speeches, dance group Yees Ku Oo led protesters to Centennial Hall where youths and 350 Juneau co-chair Elaine Schroeder greeted foreign representatives through a bullhorn. None of the visitors were outside of Centennial Hall during the rally and none emerged to investigate the sounds.
However, Schroeder thanked them for being in Alaska just the same.
“Thank you for coming all the way to Juneau, so we can show off our beautiful environment,” Schroeder said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.