By Shelby Kohn, Climate Reality Club Committee Chair
Photos by Tamy Nazha
I was talking on the phone with my friend Gianna, a senior student at University of California, Irvine (UCI) when I first heard about the National Youth Climate Strike. We are both climate activists and met at a climate change training held by the Climate Reality Project last summer in Los Angeles. Since that training, I founded a Climate Reality Campus Corps chapter at Soka dubbed the Climate Reality Club. Gianna is also the president of UCI’s climate change group on campus, Climatepedia. As women in similar environmental activist positions, we love to share our upcoming club events and what we are doing to make a difference. After our phone call, I was feeling very inspired and immediately began my research.
Fairly quickly I learned that the strike was a nationwide movement to demonstrate to policymakers that we, the youth of America, wanted to see climate change policy as a top priority in the 2020 elections. The specific demands of the strike were bold and clear: Halt any fossil fuel infrastructure projects; enact emission standards and benchmarks; ensure government decisions involving climate change are based on the best-available, most-current scientific research; and require comprehensive K-8 climate change education. Most importantly, the strike advocated for the ratification and implementation of the Green New Deal – a package climate proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst consequences of climate change while simultaneously tackling humanitarian issues exacerbated by climate change like racial injustice and socio-economic inequality.
The date of the strike was set to be March 15, giving our officers approximately two weeks to plan for the strike. We advertised our hearts out and managed to bring 15 Soka students to the strike (most of them on Gloria’s big Soka Shuttle bus, so fewer emissions).
We arrived at Laguna’s Main Beach around 7:40 a.m. ready to rumble. Not to our surprise, our fellow protesters were too. Right away my team got busy holding their recycled-material signs, networking, and gaining support from passersby. Our new friends even provided us with extra posters and markers to make more signs. The posters ranged from witty one-liners to bold statements of protest: “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance,” “What I Stand On Is What I Stand For,” “If the Environment Were a Bank It Would Be Saved by Now” were some of my favorites.
The beautiful background of Laguna Beach could not have been a more perfect setting to collectively express our love and care for the planet. There were approximately 50 total attendees and at least half of them were ages 8 to 16. Overall, it was such an uplifting experience to stand together with so many like-minded people in a setting where the age difference didn’t matter—our goal of national climate action was the same. It was a powerful moment in my life where I felt that the community we formed over the short span of a couple of hours was truly “many embodied, one in mind.”