“You have stolen my childhood and my dreams with your empty words.”
Climate Action Summit
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As far as I can tell, there were no student strikes at public schools or on the streets of Benicia or Vallejo on Global Youth Climate Strike day 2020.
Police estimated that 1500 took part in the student-led Benicia March For Our Lives in 2018. It seems gun violence in schools strikes a chord, but the threat of a planet in crisis is a little too far off for most of our kids and those who support and encourage them.
Breathe deep. Read the news. And wake, young’uns. Most of you already know: The planet is on fire and there is no PLANet B!
I reached out, but have not heard a thing from Benicia High School activists or teachers.
Granted, I was undergoing minor surgery on the 20th. I was not only unable to protest myself – I didn’t drive around town looking for signs of walkouts or rallies. So there MIGHT have been something going on. I really hope so. But I think not.
Our only local daily newspaper, the Vallejo Times-Herald, reported on a Vallejo Charter School rally (definitely NOT a strike, according to Matt Smith, Griffin Technologies Academies Superintendent ). That rally, while informative and perhaps even empowering for students, stayed on campus, where students listened to speakers and participated in adult-led chants.
I’m guessing our students were told that if they walked out, they would be charged with an unexcused absence, which was evidently the widespread approach here in the SF Bay Area:
“Although schools in New York City allowed students to take the day off as an excused absence if they marched, that wasn’t the case in the Bay Area. School districts around the Bay Area issued statements saying they generally supported the students’ exercising their First Amendment rights, but that anyone who left a school facility would be given an unexcused absence.” — Bay Area News Group report, published in the Vallejo Times-Herald
Thousands of people across the Bay Area took to the streets Friday as part of a global “climate strike” to urge political leaders to do more to address climate change.
The demonstrations were led by students but included adult workers.
In San Francisco, a crowd estimated at roughly 8,000 people met at the federal building on Seventh Street, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein have their offices, and prepared to march 1.1 miles down Market Street, past the offices of Bank of America and PG& E before ending at Embarcadero Plaza near the Ferry Building.
Chanting and banging drums, the crowd, largely made up of young people, held signs saying “Grownups do something,” “There is no Planet B” and “Governor Newsom stand up to big oil.”
In the East Bay, about 200 people gathered to chant and rally in the Laney College courtyard, including groups of students from Montclair Elementary and St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Oakland. Organizers planned to board BART and join up with marchers in San Francisco later in the day.
St. Paul’s eighth grader Lily Salazar came to the demonstration as part of a field trip with dozens of her classmates, who made signs at school on Thursday.
Salazar said she wanted to send a message to politicians: that, in the future, “We are going to be the voters,” and that the changing climate matters to them.
“It’s our futures — if we don’t stand up now then eventually it will be too late,” Salazar said. “We’re going to have to live with it.” It wasn’t the first protest for the class. Salazar and other students also joined nationwide student demonstrations against gun violence in the spring of 2018. On the Peninsula, students walked out of class at San Mateo High School and other high schools.
Across the United States and in other countries, similar protests took place. Events were planned at 4,500 locations in 150 countries, from France to Uganda to Kabul, Afghanistan, where 100 people, mostly young women, marched holding signs, protected by armed soldiers. The events were timed around a United Nations Climate Summit set for Monday in New York.
They were inspired by a series of school walkouts to protest climate, started by Greta Thunberg, a 16-yearold Swedish activist who, after taking a boat across the Atlantic, testified before the House of Representatives earlier this week — where she chastised the lawmakers for not taking action on climate change — and met former President Barack Obama.
Although schools in New York City allowed students to take the day off as an excused absence if they marched, that wasn’t the case in the Bay Area. School districts around the Bay Area issued statements saying they generally supported the students’ exercising their First Amendment rights, but that anyone who left a school facility would be given an unexcused absence. Some noted that schools cannot protect students when they leave campus and also that schools would lose state funding for each student who missed a day of school.
Cynthia Greaves, communications manager for the Mountain View Los Altos School District, said Friday that although the district “supports the students’ civic rights to participate in the walkout, their absences will not be excused.”
It is up to each teacher’s discretion whether students who participate in the walkout will be able to make up the class work they miss, Greaves said.
Liv Wisely, 17, a senior at El Cerrito High School, in Contra Costa County, said teachers agreed to excuse her absences so she could attend the demonstration Friday morning. She was motivated by a sense of responsibility to future generations, she said.
“There really is a right and a wrong side of history,” Wisely said. “In the end, you’re going to be held responsible, the same as everyone else who just stood by and watched it happen.”
Anna Fletcher, a senior at Los Altos High and one of the organizers of her school’s walkout, called Thunberg a “big inspiration” for the decision to plan a march.
“Some people think protesting doesn’t do anything, but it really only takes one person to make a change,” Fletcher said Climate activism has been ramping up over the last two years as the effects of climate change have become more visible.
And… here’s the Vallejo Times-Herald story on the charter school rally:
While a 16-year-old Swedish girl chastised politicians on Capitol Hill this week, sister charter schools in Vallejo held a Global Climate Action Rally Day of their own.
Activist Greta Thunberg enlightened the suits in Washington, D.C., hoisting a sign in Swedish “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” (“School Strike for Climate”).
“I don’t want to be heard all the time, but if there is anything I can do to improve the situation then I think it’s a very small price to pay,” Thunberg told CNN.
Young people took to the streets in protest worldwide, including thousands in New York City.
While Griffin Technologies Academies Superintendent Matt Smith emphasized Friday’s late morning Vallejo rally and march was not a strike, he approved an extended lunch period for guest speakers and a march around each respective campus — a block from each other in north Vallejo.
The goal, Smith said, was to “raise awareness about climate change and to mobilize students to take an active role as leaders in our society.”
At the Griffin Academy, sixth and seventh grade students listened to an environmental chant by conservation biologist Michael Oakes before strolling around the interior of the five-acre campus.
“I want them to feel empowered to voice their concerns,” said Griffin Technology Academy Principal Stephanie Morgado. “There’s a lot of talk about what you can and cannot do, especially concerning our demographics. They can come together for a cause.”
Plastic consumption “and how we re-purpose all this plastic material” is a significant concern for Morgado, who sports a simple line drawing tattoo of two otters on her right arm.
The day of rallying and marches “bring that awareness to the students and their families,” Morgado continued, calling Thunberg’s appearance before the legislators “huge.”
“I think we downplay the power that our students have to make change and how we need to build a sense of urgency,” Morgado said.
Climate change “impacts people beyond our sphere,” added the second year principal. “It’s not just an America issue. It’s a global issue. There’s a lack of awareness to that.”
Natasha McCormick, an English teacher at Griffin, said the rally and march were “really exciting and super fun to watch in terms of getting engaged.”
McCormick believes it’s up to the younger generation to, if not save the planet entirely, work to solve climate change challenges.
“If anyone’s going to do it, it’s them,” McCormick said. “It’s certainly not the people in power.”
The students “want to know why things are important, why they matter and why we would spend time learning about it,” McCormick said. “Legitimate questions.”
One Griffin student, Davonna Nurzi, 12, lamented how “a lot of kids these days and adults litter and that it can go to the ocean, pollute, and injure animals and make them extinct.”
Sixth grader Amelia Ostem held a sign, “My world’s on FIRE, how about yours?” She said she marched “because people are dying and so are the animals.”
A block away at the sister school, MIT Academy, Principal Byron Laird took to the megaphone, shouting “Climate!” with around 500 kids responding “Change!”
“It is a very important day,” Laird said. “The issues spoken today are not to scare you, not to alarm you .. it’s to bring an awareness to this situation that we’re dealing with. What happens today with the environment and climate affects everyone.”
Laird handed the spotlight to Dan Feldman, a climate scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley.
“I study climate change all day long and I’m here because I want to inspire the next generation of scientists,” Feldman said, telling the students that “we’re in the business of documenting” the rise of carbon dioxide “and you’re in the business of solving it.”
Feldman said carbon dioxide is “creating all sorts of change … some change is good, some change is not so good” like heat waves and wild fires.
Feldman said the younger generation has given him hope for a solution.
“I see the new generation coming together and we need to come together, not in the future, but right now,” Feldman said.
Oakes made a quick jaunt from Griffin to MIT in hopes of encouraging the teens to get involved.
“Whose world is it? Whose earth is it? It’s yours and it’s every other creature,” Oakes said. “Everything is connected. We’re all connected.”
Oakes noted that 195 countries participated in recent scientific studies. “That,” he said, “says climate change is real. We’re causing it.
“Can we make a change? Yes.”
Oakes encouraged the students to transition to a plant-based diet to reduce the use of land, water, energy and pollution.
It’s going to take “political will … so support candidates that support the Green New Deal,” Oakes said.
One student was on his own mission.
“Save the turtles,” he said.
A little over a year ago, Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old from Stockholm, stayed home from school one day to conduct her own climate change protest outside the Swedish Parliament building. She skipped school the next day, too, and the day after that, and the week after that, again and again, until she was striking every Friday—but no longer alone. Thunberg’s protests inspired weekly #fridaysforfuture school strikes in cities around the world, sparking a movement of young people demanding climate action—and justice.
They have good reason to strike. By the time today’s high school seniors turn 50, scientists predict that the average annual number of days in the United States on which the heat index exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit will have doubled. Worldwide, humanity will face more frequent devastating storms, year-round wildfire “seasons,” and rapidly rising sea levels that threaten to displace more than 800 million people. That is, unless today’s leaders and industries come together, now, to curb carbon emissions enough to hold global average warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius—the recognized threshold to prevent the escalation of the most dire climate consequences.
At the U.N. Climate Action Summit next week, representatives from nearly every nation will meet in New York City to discuss that goal. But three days beforehand, to make certain the concerns of their generation are brought to the table, millions of students and other young people plan to walk out of their schools or workplaces in what could be the largest climate strike yet. Friday’s strike kicks off a week of thousands of events worldwide. At a separate event last Monday, Thunberg, now 16, said, “I want September 20th to be another tipping point, a social tipping point” that gives world leaders “a feeling that they cannot embarrass themselves now, that they have too many people watching them.”
Below, we introduce you to a small sample of those who will be watching. These four young Americans come from different places and backgrounds, and their primary motivations for striking vary. But what connects them with each other and with the rest of the strikers is painfully obvious: They’re fighting for their futures.
Greenville, North Carolina
I strike for the underrepresented communities—the ones affected the most, but whose faces are seldom seen in the climate movement. In my area, these people are the ones who get hit the hardest when we have hurricanes. And they still haven’t recovered from the last one when they get hit again. They are the communities who get flooded the most, who see the most damage, and who suffer the most deaths. I strike because my local representatives and city mayors have either not spoken about the climate crisis or have lied about their climate action plans. I strike because I want a livable future and a sustainable planet to live on and for upcoming generations to be able to experience this beautiful planet too.
I strike because we have deafened our ears to the earth. I strike because we have blinded ourselves to the natural world. Animals are my passion—they have been ever since I was little. I dreamed of researching wildlife, to understand why not all animals are thriving. However, it wasn’t until I was older that I truly realized the extent to which humans are harming biodiversity. For the first time, I faltered when I told people my dream to study wildlife. I wasn’t so sure anymore that the work I wanted to do would be possible in a few decades. What if there weren’t any intact habitats left by then? What if every research paper was another devastating report? Those worries are why I strike—so the children of tomorrow can fall in love with the natural world, just as I have.
I will be striking along with youth across the world because my family in Bangladesh is dying. Unlike us, who live in the United States surrounded by the privileges of this country, my family continues to suffer from floods, mass fires, and air pollution every single day. I’ve lost three cousins already due to childhood cancer and one of my nephews due to a flood in which he drowned. These climate disasters that we might see once in our lives are their everyday realities, and this country that my family calls home is soon to perish. That is why I’m striking along with the global youth against the climate crisis. No one deserves to have these climate disasters as their daily life, and we need to take action against this growing normality.
I am climate striking because everything I know is being affected by the climate crisis. It’s getting hotter. Only a few rooms in our school have AC, and feeling the heat of the day and trying to study is getting harder. My best friend in California had to miss weeks of school because of smog and wildfire smoke in the air. Earthquakes literally and figuratively shake my town, which is full of injection wells from fracking, yet fossil fuel executives are still trying to convince us to use plastic straws. It’s time fossil fuel corporations are held accountable. Everything we all know will be torn down if we don’t act now. But if we DO act now, imagine the world we could create! My friends and I are tired of our futures being put on the back burner. It’s our time. Strike with us.
When New York City announced that public school students could skip classes without penalties to join the youth climate strikes planned around the world on Friday, you could almost hear a sigh of relief.
Before the announcement, the protests, to be held three days ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit here, had thrown a new complication into the usual back-to-school chaos: With the protests framed as a cry to protect their futures from climate disaster, should students heed the call?
Parents had wondered how to word emails to principals requesting excused absences. Teachers had been wondering how to react. Some students had been vowing to protest no matter what, but others had worried about possible repercussions.
Most of all, the decision last week by the nation’s largest school district buoyed national protest organizers, who are hoping that the demonstrations will be the largest on climate in the country’s history, with at least 800 planned across the 50 states. They expressed hope that other districts around the country would follow suit…. [continued]