Zero Hour climate strike

Amelia Southern, a freshman, leads members of the Arkansas branch of Zero Hour and other protesters in a “climate strike” march up Dickson Street on Friday.

Members of the budding Arkansas branch of a national climate change activism organization are working to build the group’s UA membership after hosting a “climate strike” protest Friday in Fayetteville.

Zero Hour is a national climate activism organization focused on the community impact of climate change and advocating for environmental justice for marginalized groups.

Amelia Southern, who uses they/them pronouns, is a freshman and founder of the Arkansas branch of Zero Hour. Southern hopes to establish the club as a registered student organization at the UofA to attract more members. The Arkansas branch’s members seek to “bring awareness in Arkansas and open the door to youth activism,” Southern said.

Southern thinks Fayetteville is progressive toward sustainability efforts compared to other Arkansas cities, and loves that the city government pushes for minimizing waste. However, the conversation surrounding consumerism should shift to be more inclusive, which would have a greater impact on the community, Southern said.

“I think we should push to change the narrative from the awareness that consumerism is bad but that people, especially people of color, do not have the same amount of accessibility that some people in Fayetteville do,” Southern said. “Some people who preach for sustainability have the money to live sustainably while others don’t.”

The local branch of Zero Hour has 20 members, most of whom are college students. The pandemic caused active membership to decrease slightly but the group is slowly expanding, Southern said.

The branch’s members organized a climate strike Friday, in which they marched from the Chi Omega Greek Theatre to the Washington County Courthouse and Wells Fargo Advisors on Dickson Street to raise awareness about climate change and amplify youth voices.

Participants chanted phrases including "Our voice matters!" as the group moved toward the courthouse, where a few strike participants spoke. Southern went on to lead the group in challenging Wells Fargo for its part in funding the fossil fuel industry. The group was striking against the company, not the workers, Southern said.

“Individual action is great, but we have to tackle big corporations and industries to fight climate change,” Southern said. “One hundred companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions.”

Grace Holley, a freshman and the creative director for Zero Hour Arkansas, said she hopes to create opportunities for people to engage with the club through on-campus events like the art build, an Oct. 22 event in which campus community members created public art. After participating in activities, some students will hopefully join the group, Holley said.

“I don’t want it to be intimidating or stressful (to join)”, Holley said. “I want it to be a simple process.”

Holley first got involved with Zero Hour in August and has been helping ever since. The group is mostly upperclassmen right now, though Holley expects more freshmen to join once it has been up and running longer, she said.

Caroline Grage, a junior, is a member of Zero Hour and is the president of another environmental RSO on campus, Students Advocating For the Environment. Grage got involved with Zero Hour in early October because she wanted to expand her involvement in environmental activism, she said. A few other members of SAFE are also involved with Zero Hour.

Grage helped organize and coordinate the climate strike and recruit volunteers.

“The strike went well, it was so encouraging to see everybody getting involved and using their voice,” Grage said. “We even had a few people join the strike along the route, reinforcing how important this issue is to our community.”

Southern was “pleasantly surprised with the turnout” at the UA strike, they said. Zero Hour’s members want to use the momentum from the strike to educate the community and build more pressure on legislators to pass progressive climate policy, Southern said. They hope to expand as not just another movement focused on the science, but one focused on the people affected by climate change.

“If we can change the narrative to climate justice rather than awareness, Fayetteville can address the economic, social, and climate injustice issues it has,” Southern said.

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