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Marchers rally in Cedar Rapids to push for action on climate change

Cedar Rapids poised to discuss municipal sustainability plan

CEDAR RAPIDS — Nicknamed “Ayla the Climate Striker,” Ayla Boylen has been calling for action to combat climate change in front of Cedar Rapids City Hall for nine Fridays now — inspired by the global movement started by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg and carried on locally in Iowa City by teen activist Massimo Biggers.

More and more people have caught on, and on Friday evening her group dubbed CR Climate Strikers, and the Sunrise Cedar Rapids and Sunrise Dubuque groups, organized a rally and march through downtown Cedar Rapids, coinciding with marches around the country.

“The City Council does a good job of listening to people, so having all these people here we hope will push them to take action,” Boylen, 21, an art student at Mount Mercy University, said of policymakers.

About 100 people joined her for what started as a political rally featuring Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kimberly Graham and ended with a march from Raygun in NewBo down Third Street SE to City Hall, where people vocalized their connection to the climate issue.

Among the youngest participants was Colby Hanson, 9, a third-grader at Van Buren Elementary. He was not just a tag along, but had a goal in being there.

“Climate change is happening whether we like it or not,” he said from under his Batman hat. “If we screw up the earth, there’s going to be consequences in our future and it’s not going to be good.”

Organizers said they picked the evening — rather than the day when climate strikers elsewhere disrupted school and work to raise awareness — to allow people to come after work. And the said they chose City Hall — which was long closed by the time marchers arrived — as a symbolic representation of the city, not as an accusation against city leaders.

The march came on the heels of the three Linn County supervisors declaring a climate crisis and committing to accelerated action to address climate change and environmental sustainability and resource protection.

Boylen noted some of the activists had a positive meeting with City Council members Dale Todd and Tyler Olson earlier in the day.

She acknowledged the city has been making plans, but the changes are not as large as she envisions. For example, she urges replacing the city transit fleet with electric buses.

Sandi Fowler, Cedar Rapids deputy city manager, said the city is planning to unveil a municipal sustainability proposal Wednesday at its development committee meeting. Barring holdups, it could come before the City Council for approval in January.

The plan is broader than a climate change resolution only. It has goals and action steps around three pillars: people, energy and economy. While not specifically addressing “climate change,” the proposal targets a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, increasing use of renewable energy by 30 percent without a timeline, and reducing city facility water consumption 10 percent by fiscal 2022, among other targets.

The proposal applies only to city government operations and facilities.

Over the next year, officials intend to engage industry, business, nonprofits, residents and others in a citywide sustainability plan with achievable goals, she said.

“As a city organization, we want to lead by example,” she said.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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