Climate crisis activists share fears, hopes in downtown Chicago march

In shimmery, glittery costumes — a fantastical fish, a giant bumble bee, a squid with a tutu — they danced at the base of the skyscraper, hoping someone inside might be watching.

The upward sweep of the smoked-glass windows of Chase Tower offered no clues, as the protestors finished their dance routine to the Bee Gees’ disco hit, “Stayin’ Alive” and then fell to the ground — a mock mass death to illustrate what they see as the potential perils of climate change.

“Who here wants to stay alive?” bellowed Evanston activist Jessy Bradish, 39. “I’ve got all my love to give for this beautiful Planet Earth. Give it up for Planet Earth!”

A group of about 200 climate activists from the Chicago area and Madison, Wisc., among other places, marched through Chicago’s financial district Friday. They want the United States Federal Reserve System to push banks to take climate change into account when making investments.

“They are the money pipeline,” said Larry Coble, president of 350 Chicago, a climate change activist group. The banks “are the ones doing the financing for all the fossil fuel infrastructure. We want them to stop doing that. They need to start reinvesting in more renewable energy projects.”

And soon, Coble said.

“Essentially, time is running out,” he said.

Climate activists dressed as animals drop to the ground during the “Stayin’ Alive Act of Civil DISCObedience” outside the Chase Tower in the Loop during the Global Climate Strike on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.

Climate activists dressed as animals drop to the ground during the “Stayin’ Alive Act of Civil DISCObedience” outside the Chase Tower in the Loop during the Global Climate Strike on Friday.

The activists — ranging in age from teenagers to a centenarian — expressed both frustration and hope about the future of the planet.

Several said they now see a glimmer of hope with the passage in August of the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed with only Democratic votes in Congress and includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion over a decade.

“I hope it doesn’t get repealed by the mid-term [elections] or a new president,” said Emmie Galler, 25, from Wicker Park, carrying a “honk for clean air” sign.

But some also said passage of the act came at too high a cost, allowing U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, to win several major concessions for the fossil fuel industry.

Activist Natasha Bhatia, a junior at Hinsdale Central High School, called the deal with Manchin a “dirty” one.

“Sen. Joe Manchin’s side deal took place without the knowledge or representation of environmental activists. Enacted as a permitting reform, it would pave the way for countless environmentally destructive projects.”

Bhatia said she was there Friday to “represent the frustrations of my generation.”

“We are tired of seeing disasters caused by climate change, knowing they will inevitably increase,” she said. “We are tired of the generations that came before us who have razed countless natural habitats to the ground so that the magnificent species that once lived here now reside only in our memories.”

Contributing: Associated Press

Climate activists danced in animal costumes during a protest in the Loop on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.

Climate activists danced in animal costumes during a protest in the Loop on Friday. A group of about 200 climate activists from the Chicago area and Madison, Wisc., among other places, marched through Chicago’s financial district.

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