Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Young people hold up signs during a Climate Strike on Friday in front of the Tennessee Aquarium. A candlelit climate vigil also is planned for Friday near the Hunter Museum.

Striking to save the planet

Around the country and here, hundreds of thousands of young people poured into the streets Friday for a day of global climate protest.

They are understandably anxious about their future on a hotter planet and angry at world leaders for failing to arrest the crisis.

In New York City, officials estimated the crowd at 60,000. They chanted: "You had a future and so should we," and "we vote next." They carried signs like "Think or swim."

Crowds in Houston, one day after Tropical Storm Imelda swamped parts of southeast Texas, chanted, "Our streets flood, so we flood the streets."

In Chattanooga, about 100 people gathered outside the Tennessee Aquarium. They sang, they chanted. They carried signs with messages like "Don't be a fossil fool." A man drumming sang, "If you believe in global warning, say yeah." The crowd answered. "Yeah!"

Organizers called the marches a "climate strike," and there were "strikes" planned in all 50 states and in many nations around the world.

Out of the mouths of babes. Go, kids, go.


Suing to save the planet

So much for states' rights.

But wait. Maybe only Red States have states' rights. And only when what those states want is the same thing Republicans and Donald Trump want.

After all, the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency (we should rename it the Environmental Destruction Agency) is revoking California's authority to regulate heat-trapping emissions from automobiles inside that state.

Never mind that a GOP battle cry to undo Roe vs. Wade's legalization of abortion is "state's rights." Ditto for any kind of federal oversight of guns.

But on Friday, California and 23 other states took on the fight, filing suit against the Trump administration's unprecedented legal reversal of the state's authority to set its own rules on climate-warming tailpipe emissions.

At the heart of the matter is the Obama-era national fuel economy standard that requires automakers to build vehicles that achieve an average fuel economy of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Trump rolled back that standard to about 37 mpg, despite the fact that automakers — and most consumers — opposed the rollback.

Then when California struck back by reaching an accord with several major automakers to keep the higher standard there, Trump was angered into this newest effort to revoke California's authorization to have tougher standards. Because California has unique pollution problems, it has had federal waivers allowing tougher-than-federal-pollution standards for decades. Now Trump wants to undo that.

All the state attorneys general signing on to California's effort are Democrats, but they represent several states that Trump won in 2016. States joining the lawsuit include Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.


Working to save the planet

Meanwhile, to our south in what is increasingly looking as though it may become a purple state, Georgia's very Republican Gov. Brian Kemp was glowing in his praise of a new solar panels plant in Dalton. Friday marked the grand opening for Korean company Hanwha Q Cells — the largest rooftop solar panels manufacturing plant in North America.

Oh, my. What will this bode for the coal industry?

Clearly Kemp was not too concerned about that on Friday.

"This is a fantastic technology in an emerging industry, and it's great to see this type of manufacturing come to Georgia," Kemp said after touring the Hanwha Q cells plant on Friday. "This is not only great for the people employed here but it will also help our farmers who are putting up solar farms all over our state."

Gosh, we like that climate-saving alternative energy when making solar panels brings jobs, huh?

The initial plans for a $150 million plant with 500 employees grew since its announcement last year into a nearly $200 million investment with 650 employees.

Those workers will produce enough solar panels to generate as much peak power as the Hoover Dam every year.

Lisa Nash, the factory human resources manager, said most production workers are being paid from $14.50 to $19 an hour and are being trained to learn about the new technology.

Doesn't it just make you smile?