WARWICK — Just over a year ago, Warwick resident Steven Kurkoski stood alone in the town center, holding a sign that read “Climate Emergency is Now.”
Now, 12 months later, more than a dozen people show up with handmade signs each Saturday to raise awareness about climate change.
“It is an attempt to bring awareness to the climate emergency,” said Janice Kurkoski, Steven’s wife.
Every Saturday, the group convenes from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., “rain or shine or snow.” Kurkoski admitted the group has delayed to Sunday once or twice when Saturday’s weather was especially bad, but they were still out there each week. The gatherings often include live music and free homemade cookies. As all public buildings in town remain closed, Janice Kurkoski said this is a safe way for Warwick residents to socialize, and be proactive.
Steven Kurkoski said he was inspired to take the town center with a sign after Greta Thunberg, a now 17-year-old Swedish climate and environmental activist, delivered a passionate speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September 2019. He said he felt Thunberg was blaming adult generations for the looming climate crisis.
“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” Thunberg said, speaking in front of the U.N. last year. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
“I thought, ‘Well, I can do something about that.’ So I decided to start walking,” Steven Kurkoski said. “I was out there for two months by myself.”
While the event began as a “Climate Walk” in Warwick Center, Janice Kurkoski said it has developed to be more like a “vigil,” with more than a dozen people stationed in front of the library, holding signs and waving to passersby. Over time, more signs have been added. Some of them read “Trust the science,” “Conservation now!” “Let’s talk about climate emergency” and “There is no Planet B.”
The Kurkoskis said Warwick has a history of residents holding a strong appreciation for nature. In addition to a shared naturalist mind set, Janice Kurkoski said many residents hold a “can do” attitude. She referenced the community’s efforts to create its own education model out of the former Warwick Community School building, and the Fire Department’s work on a new station addition.
“Warwick has this mentality that if something looks hard to do, we don’t wait,” Janice Kurkoski said. “We step up and do it.”
The climate vigil is not the only Saturday social group. Janice Kurkoski said a knitting circle gathers at the park across the street, along with a consistent group of people who, in pre-pandemic times, frequented the library on Saturday mornings, where good conversation, free coffee and homemade cookies were abundant.
Zack DeLuca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4579.