LAFAYETTE – Black Friday is typically reserved in American culture as the day after Thanksgiving, the consumerist start of the mad dash of gift buying before Christmas. This year, a group of people with a different idea for the day’s plans met on the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge to hold the third climate strike of 2019.
The West Lafayette Climate Strike joined representatives of Purdue Climate Strikes, Lafayette Climate and Harrison High School’s Students for Environmental Protection, forming a coalition called the Tippecanoe Climate Alliance. The Friday strike also aligned with a Global Climate Strike.
The goals of the newly-formed climate alliance: to show the comradery between the multiple climate organizations in the greater Lafayette area and to pressure Lafayette and West Lafayette officials to declare a climate emergency in each city.
A petition was present at the strike for supporters to sign to show support for the declaration of an emergency.
In October, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis and the city council unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent every four years. This promise came after pressure from the Sept. 27 climate strike, where more than 300 people, many of them students walking out of schools, led a march to West Lafayette’s temporary city hall to demand change.
“Anything we can do to improve our environment, it’s almost to the point where its common sense,” Dennis said Nov. 29. “…We have to change how we live our lives. We have to change the way we do business, we have to change the way we do government, and I think its abundantly clear now, with the number of people who show up to each climate strike, that is a popular thing to do.”
That day was also the funeral for Sonya Margerum, former mayor of West Lafayette. The Tippecanoe Climate Alliance held the rally on the pedestrian bridge side near the Sonya Margerum Fountain to honor the environmental work of the late mayor.
As West Lafayette’s mayor from 1979-2003, Margerum was a force behind the city implementing curbside recycling. Under her tenure, the city also purchased property that would become the Celery Bog Nature Area and constructed a stormwater sewer near Tapawingo Park that prevented trash from flowing into the Wabash River.
Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski was invited to the strike, but sent notice to the Tippecanoe Climate Alliance that he was unable to attend.
However, it appears climate change may be a topic of conversation for the city, as an item on the agenda for a recent Lafayette city council meeting read “Work on Climate Change Resolution for 2020” under reports from Roswarski.
After speeches from Tippecanoe Climate Alliance participants and community leaders, including state Reps. Sheila Klinker and Chris Campbell, strike attendees were encouraged to sign various climate-based petitions and to paint posters ahead of the next strike, which is scheduled next year for April 22, Earth Day.
Polly Barks, a co-facilitator for Lafayette Climate, worked on painting a large banner for the Earth Day strike. Barks said Lafayette Climate, which works on Lafayette-specific climate change goals, joined with the other groups around the area to create Tippecanoe Climate Alliance as a way to reinforce the common themes that the groups share.
“I thought (the strike) was a nice symbol — a way to opt out of going Black Friday shopping and instead showing support for an important cause,” she said.