About a thousand people rallied in Kansas City on Saturday, calling for action to protect the environment. The People’s Climate March was one of hundreds across the country and overseas timed to coincide with the 100-day mark of President Donald Trump's administration.
Despite heavy rain, a cross section of Kansas Citians, including climate activists, students and families, marched through the Plaza and then gathered inside Unity Temple.
Holding placards with slogans such as "Earth First" and "Climate Change Is Real," many came to express concern about the Trump administration’s removal of environmental protections. They were addressed by a range of speakers.
Stuart Schafer, a farmer and professor specializing in sustainable agriculture, said in difficult times too many people turn to false prophets who tell them to reject reason.
“But this is not the time to panic or bury our heads in the sand,” Schafer said.
Another speaker, Kansas City architect Bob Berkebile, said that with a new administration, it’s an important time to stand up for the environment.
“They [the Trump administration], at the moment, are doing a great deal to undo a lot of the important initiatives that have been created globally and nationally and locally,” Berkebile said. “So it’s important that we communicate what our beliefs are, what’s important and start new initiatives that are even more inspiring than the ones that were born here 25 years ago.”
Berkebile told the crowd his own conversion into an environmentalist came as a result of the Hyatt Regency Skywalk disaster in 1981. He was the project architect and although an engineering fault was found to have caused the collapse that resulted in the deaths of 114 people, he said he still feels in some way responsible. Since then he’s strongly supported green building projects.
Christina Arnone sat towards the back with her three little boys. Arnone said she wants to show them what protecting the earth means.
“Now it feels like there are a lot of increased threats on regulations and laws that protect our planet,” she said.
Pediatrician Carissa Stanton of the University of Kansas Health System also spoke at the rally. She said she’s seeing the damaging effects of climate change on local children’s health.
“There were record high temperatures in Kansas City in February, causing record high early pollen counts and I saw the effect,” Stanton said. “I saw flu and pollen-induced asthma at the same time, and I don’t typically have to worry about both of those at the same times.”
Clasping his placard near the front row, Kansas Citian Eric Zautner said he doesn’t expect Donald Trump to be convinced by the dangers of climate change.
“Now that Trump is in here, we have to stop him from doing harm or this could be the point where we go over the edge and [then] nothing we do is going to hold back radical climate change,” Zautner said.
Rally organizers also urged people to continue standing up for the environment any way they can and by opposing Trump’s policies.
Danny Wood is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.