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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

'We Have A Climate Emergency': Milwaukee Residents To Join Global Climate Strike

Susan Bence
Kim Cosier (far right) coordinated a day to prepare art for the Sept. 20 climate action strike in Milwaukee.

People around the world, including in Milwaukee, concerned about climate change will take part in the Global Climate Strike, which starts Friday.

Ahead of Friday's Milwaukee rally, a corner of the cavernous basement beneath a UWM art studio building is filled with clusters of people chatting, munching on pizza. But mostly, they’re focused on the work at hand. Among them is Nicholas Lampert.

"I was screen printing these patches that people will wear at the demonstration and on the back of jackets," Lampert says.

READ: Millions March In Global Climate Strike

Credit Susan Bence
The square muslin patches read Global Climate Strike. Volunteers painted hundreds of patches that artist Nicholas Lampert screen printed.

This isn’t Lampert’s first demonstration of concern about climate change. He's one of six Milwaukee-based artists and designers who formed Art Build Workers. They work locally and internationally helping to bring art to social and environmental movements.

"I went to the big climate march in New York and Paris," Lampert says. 

READ: Want To Help Reduce Climate Change? Eat Less Red Meat & Shop Locally For Food

He says he feels compelled to act.

"Because we are running out of time, because we have a climate emergency and we live in the belly of the beast with a government that is the biggest climate deniers on the planet, as far as their position of power. Sept. 20 is really inspired by the grassroots movement and it’s inspired by young people and so it’s exceedingly important," Lampert says.

Credit Susan Bence
Artists and volunteers painting and prepping art for the Global Climate Strike in Milwaukee.

Nearby, Kim Cosier is adding color to flame-like lettering to a long banner that reads "The House Is On Fire." She's been working for weeks, coordinating with groups around the climate strike. Together they hashed out slogan and design ideas.

"The Youth Climate Action Team MKE has a really intersectional way of thinking about the climate – the climate justice movement and it has everything to with racial justice and economic justice," Cosier says.

The work not only fuels her activism, Cosier says it’s good for her spirit.

"I can imagine a point where you might feel demoralized and quit, [feeling like] it’s hopeless. But when you do this work, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like you’re doing something to make a difference. It’s the only way we can ... It gives me energy to continue doing this work," Cosier says.

Credit Susan Bence
Jeanette Arellano believes community art building brings people together and it a step toward coming up with climate solutions.

At the other end of the room, Jeanette Arellano appears to wear a perpetual smile on her face as she applies bright orange paint to a banner. If anybody can fuel optimism, it's the K-8 art teacher.

"There have been a lot of beautiful strong individuals that come together to create the art work. I don’t think you can replicate it inside of a computer because it’s about the community and building relationships and sharing stories," Arellano says.

Yet Arellano sees evidence of climate change in the community – in her classroom.

"Snowstorms, we see it with our heat waves and our students are affected by that. Not only because they see it around them but there are school closings. They come in and they’re in sweltering classrooms," she says.

But Arellano sees a way out of the muddle.

"We need people power and that’s what many of us forget. That the power’s not in the money, but the power’s in the people. So if we’re all bending together and coming together and saying that this is something that is important for us, then we’re able to make that change," Arellano says. "But if we don’t have that conversation, then where can we begin?"

Credit Susan Bence
Lindsay Holsen and Lou Weissert make art for Friday's climate strike in Milwaukee.

Lindsay Holsen didn’t expect to find herself in a basement painting a “Climate Change Is Real” banner on a Sunday afternoon. She just happened to walk by and spot the makeshift sign outside the building inviting people to a free event.

Holsen comes at the climate issue from a unique perspective. She's a chemist working for a chemical company.

"I actually make the paint we’re using, or like the acrylic base for that type of thing. So, understanding that and how it is part of what we do but also making those processes better," Holsen says. "So I guess trying to look at climate change from how are we actually going to make a change and impact the environment, when we’re so reliant on some of those things and don’t even see those types of industry and how they impact our lives."

What about Friday's demonstration. Will Holsen be carrying her banner? She’s a bit up in the air.

"I’m hoping to. My supervisor is, and the head chemist doesn’t believe in climate change, so it’s an interesting thing. But yeah, I hope to march on Friday," she says.

As Holsen grapples with the reality of her job and her convictions, people gathering and marching from Milwaukee City Hall Friday morning will be demanding that Gov. Tony Evers declares a climate emergency. 

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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