WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - This week marks an important mile stone for the student-run West Lafayette Climate Strike group: the 50th Earth Day and one year since the group first started environmental activism.
"It's really crucial that we take action," said Annabel Prokopy, a sophomore at West Lafayette Junior-Senior High School and one of the group's leaders.
Ethan Bledsoe, also a sophomore, recalled doing a research project on the first Earth Day celebration held in 1970. He said it's empowering to keeping up the fight for our planet.
"It's crazy how there were teens going out there too and even though we are 50 years apart in age, we still have this connection for environmental justice," he said.
Prokopy believes we will overcome our current struggles with coronavirus, but climate change isn't as easy to fix.
"Even COVID-19 will be over and when it's over we will recover from it," she said. "But climate change, we'll probably never recover unless we start taking action."
Bledsoe said a big part of this is the tangibility of climate change. He said it's easy to see the effects of coronavirus and how our social distancing and staying at home is helping flatten the curve. Climate change is much slower and it's harder to see those effects right away, but he said it will help generations from now.
The group saw a lot of success at its September march and the original plan was to take to the streets on Friday, April 24th. Prokopy said the 24th will be one year to the day from when she and some friends came up with the idea for the group. But coronavirus and social distancing guidelines have forced them to move the strike online.
The students say there is a sense of disappointment about not being able to physically walk out of the school doors for their march together, but moving it online has helped them expand their cause far beyond the streets of West Lafayette.
"We have speakers from around the state, students we've been in contact with and a couple of them are speaking about the issues in their community," she said.
"We really wanted to make it a statewide effort and show that even though there are all these youth climate organizations, we're all in support of the same thing," said Bledsoe.
The group is feeling support from local leaders too. They submitted a proclamation to Mayor John Dennis calling for April 22-24th to be days dedicated to climate action. Mayor Dennis read the proclamation via Facebook live in a show of support.
"He has always been in support of us, he's even talked at all of our strikes," said Bledsoe. "But the fact that he publicly read the proclamation to show the whole city that he is in support of WL Climate was really cool and powerful."
The group wants everyone who joins in the virtual strike to make a sign so they can take a group photo through the computer.
"Come ready to learn a little bit and to just feel empowered," said Prokopy.
The virtual gathering is happening on Friday, April 24th at 4:30 p.m. Click here to register for the event.