Millions of young people gathered in places all over the world to make their voices heard about climate change and the need for climate justice.
By Solomon Smith, Managing Editor
Valley College Eco Advocates environmental club marched in one of the largest walk-outs in history adding their voices to millions of students around the world demanding a halt of the world-wide environmental crisis.
At 10:30 a.m., Eddie Kaufman-Morrow, the president of the Eco Advocates Club at Valley, rushed to get to the Redline. He and thousands of other young people in Los Angeles and around the world headed to their local Global Youth Climate Strike, an event organized for one of the most pressing issues for young people around the globe — the environment.
Kaufman and Eco Advocates’ Secretary, Melody Ribas, rode the train to Pershing Square where the march would start. For Kaufman-Morrow, this was his first time attending such a large gathering in L.A.
“Today, I wanted to meet other people who are interested in the same things I’m into, like climate issues,” said Kaufman-Morrow. “I think the more we keep doing this and the more we fight the [bad] legislations, we will win.”
Ribas, 21, intends to be active in the upcoming elections and, like many people her age, the climate is an important issue for her.
“I think everyone’s voice counts and the more people who come, the better,” said Ribas.
The Los Angeles Walkout is part of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike founded by Isra Hirsi, 16; Feliquan Charlemagne, 17; Karla Stephan, 14. Hirsi is the daughter of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. People trickled in for what seemed an anemic start, but soon after began to show up in droves. Trains packed with bodies wearing Women’s movement t-shirts and bearing hand-made signs disgorged people of all ages, orientations and racial groups. Schools organized field trips led by teachers with bullhorns, and parents brought their children.
“We have been taking our children to these protests since they were 3 years old,” said one parent who preferred not to give her name.
Native peoples were a large part of this L.A. movement and performed blessing and prayers, as well as the opening welcome in the revitalized language of the Tongva, spoken by Tina Orduno Calderon an instructor in the language. They also summed up the message of the day; Yay Vasta, no more.
Speakers urged those in power to start acting on climate change immediately. Newly-elected California Governor Gavin Newsom was called out by several speakers who say oil drilling continues to increase under his watch. A list of demands was aimed directly at Newsom: a ban on oil drilling increases, a drop in existing oil production in the state and a 275-foot safety buffer between oil fields and communities.
Activists as young as 9 years old spoke to the crowd pushing the message home. Mars Dixon, 9, is a climate activist who spoke passionately to the thousands gathered. Barely as tall as the microphone, he reprimanded adults for the current state of the environment.
“They can’t destroy the planet because they want more stuff, it has no way out but harm,” said Dixon. “It is time for our leaders to wake up. If I can live in reality at 9 years old, then so should an adult who gets to make decisions about my life.”
Children from the only native school in California, Anahuacalmecac Academia Semillas Del Pueblo School, carried a flag to the stage as they performed. Some students spoke to the crowd about the need for change. One of the more well-known speakers, and perhaps oldest to come forward, was Jane Fonda, who praised Thunberg. Known as an activist in the 1960s — by the unflattering monker of Hanoi Jane — she acknowledged the work of Thunberg (who was speaking at the New York walk-out) and made an announcement.
“I’m moving to D.C. to focus on climate change,” said Fonda.
There were some moments of friction in the crowd, however, as vegetarian protesters aggressively interrupted speakers and attempted to take over the staging area. Giant banners behind the speakers and loud chanting were a constant. Fonda agreed with the protesters but also told them to shut up and listen. Most calmed down, but many of the vegetarians continued to surround the speakers prompting LAPD officers to ask them to move back into designated areas.
The science of man-made climate change has, for the most part, been widely accepted. Professor George Leddy, who teaches climate science classes at Valley, is hopeful despite the dire state of the environment.
“[I]n California we’re seeing the Trump administration trying to roll back our clean air standards and federally he’s rolled back our clean water standards,” said Leddy, “but California has really led the way in resisting that … I think it’s up to us in California to maybe lead the resistance in defending the environmental laws, in what has been a process.”
The movement started with one girl in Norway, Greta Thunberg, who at 11 years old was depressed about the way the people abused the environment and eventually decided to do something about it.
She skipped school every Friday to protest the Norwegian Parliament. In the beginning she stood alone, but after going viral on Twitter, she was soon joined by students all over the world. After meeting former President Barack Obama and hosting her own TedTalk, she became a target of conservatives and had a unique response in an interview on CNN that summed up her tenacity.
“For me, that is in a way funny because they don’t have any arguments left,” said Thunberg. “It is a good sign because it means they feel threatened by this movement and it is making a difference.”
As part of a larger effort, yesterday was chosen as the Friday for students around the world to walk out of class and point out the need for change in the way human beings interact with the planet. Called the Global Climate Strike, it will be held from September 20-27. Students walked out of class around the globe, many supported by parents, to attend mass walkouts. South Africa, Los Angeles, New York, Maryland and others echoed with chants of “our house is on fire.” According to CNN, the phrase is from a speech given by Thunberg at the United Nations in New York last September, after a two-week trip across the Atlantic without using fossil fuels.
Businesses were also on board with the walk out. Burton, Patagonia and Lush closed their stores for the day. Lush, a popular makeup and skin care brick-and-mortar, voluntarily closed for the day, reducing their carbon footprint for a short time and allowing employees to go to the walkouts.
“Lush kind of shut down their shops today, all 250 in North America, so that we could participate in the global change,” said Chris Pow, an employee of Lush.
Others companies needed a push. Google, Amazon and Microsoft workers have threatened an employee walkout, according to Fortune Magazine. Employees in several cities from the companies walked out Friday, demanding that their companies act on climate change. In response, Jeff Bezos — CEO and founder of Amazon — pledged to go fossil fuel free by 2040, according to a press release on their website.
The day before the walkouts, President Donald J. Trump, who has denied the effects of humans on the climate, attempted to revoke California’s ability to control fossil fuel emission standards, a leading cause in global climate change. California has taken the Trump administration to court, along with several other states, but this has not caused protesters to let up yet. Leddy admits to not meeting too many “climate deniers” in his classes, but believes in a scientific approach when dealing with it.
“The best we can do is present the overwhelming science of it,” said Leddy. “And then people are living it all the time … I think it’s a very vociferous minority that’s well funded.”