For activists like Victoria Estes, environmental scientists and others, the existential threat of climate change is taking an increasing toll on their mental health and well-being.
“If it was truly perceived as an emergency, then I think we would be doing more and talking about it more,” says Asheville City Council member Kim Roney, who was elected in November on a platform that included a local Green New Deal and rapid renewable energy deployment.
For many environmental organizations across Western North Carolina, COVID-19 fell like a lightning-struck tree across the path to progress. But like an intrepid hiker, WNC’s activists and organizers have bushwhacked new trails for action in the world of the pandemic.
“This COVID-19 crisis is a crisis for many of us and for us as a society, but it’s also an opportunity because it gives us a chance, a very rare chance, to step back from our busy lives and reflect on where we want to be going as a society,” says Rose Jenkins Lane, spokesperson for Hendersonville-based nonprofit Conserving Carolina.
“I would like to celebrate the 40 young members of Sunrise Movement Asheville who had the courage to exercise civil disobedience on Dec. 6 by occupying Asheville City Hall.”
As world leaders met in Spain for a United Nations conference on climate change, Western North Carolina residents converged on Pack Square for their own environmental action on the morning of Dec. 6. Organized by Sunrise Movement Asheville in conjunction with six other area nonprofits, the Asheville Climate Strike for a Green New Deal called for government leaders “to take bold action and treat this like the climate emergency that it is.”
After months of haranguing City Council over the wording of a climate emergency resolution, over 40 protesters with Sunrise Movement Asheville occupied the government building on Dec. 6 to demand that Mayor Esther Manheimer and her colleagues pass the document as written by the climate justice group.
On Nov. 26, Asheville City Council declined to allow tiny home communities in Highway Business zoning districts, saying those areas should be reserved for higher-density, transit-oriented forms of development. Activists with the Sunrise Movement urged Council to pass a climate emergency resolution advanced by the group without changes of any kind. And a group of bear advocates asked the city to help investigate whether local black bears are being caught in illegal snare traps.
Asheville City Council announced that it would consider on a resolution to declare a climate emergency during its upcoming meeting. But representatives from the Sunrise Movement feel that the vote is being pushed through without proper vetting from activists and city staff.
Joining demonstrators worldwide, hundreds of local teenagers, children and adults walked out of class and work to participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20. Gathered in front of Asheville City Hall, the activists held a climate protest and “die-in”.