WHS students participate in the global climate strike. (Photo by Avery Pak)
Westlake High School

Opinion: There is a need for climate action among youth, public

“Greta Thunberg,” “Greenpeace,” “Climate Change,” and “rising temperatures” are probably some names and phrases the average American has become more familiar with in the past few months.

While climate change has been a serious issue for decades, its prevalence in mainstream society discussion and media is growing rapidly, primarily due to action from the youth and other like-minded individuals.

Across the globe from Sept. 20-27, students and adults participated in climate week, a week dedicated to protest, activism and action to combat climate change. I am proud to say my community — my small community — stepped up as well.

On the first day of climate week, people swarmed the intersection of Thousand Oaks and Westlake Blvd in Westlake Village, California with bold signs and voices.

While Southern California’s “main” climate strike took place in Los Angeles in Pershing Square and LA City Hall, 350.org — a global environmental organization with local chapters in the Conejo and San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles and Ventura — organized the strike for Westlake Village.

Over 250 participated, including students from UCLA, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Cal Lutheran and more. 

“We decided that not everybody would go [to LA], so we posted the event here,” 350.org local chapter co chair and co founder Alan Weiner said. “It took a few weeks to work out the details, but mainly it was the people who just showed up and took it from there. We didn’t need an emcee or a march, just the energy of the attendees.”

To my right, I saw a young boy get out of his stroller to hold a sign made by his mom, while in front of me was a teenager shouting for climate justice, and to my right, an old woman demanding a Green New Deal. 

It’s intergenerational.

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After striking with my sister and my friends for two hours in the nearly 90 degree heat, I felt empowered unlike before. I had only seen these protests happen through videos and pictures, never in front of me.

And while I had been advocating for climate justice for a long time, this moment was more influential than any news article I could read or speech I could listen to, because it involved my participation and my voice. I realized that this global challenge is not as daunting when humans unite in solidarity. 

As a part of my club Green Alliance and in honor of the final day of climate week, my friend Quinn and I hosted a forum on climate change in Westlake High School’s theatre. 

While the forum was held for only 35 minutes during our limited lunch, over 160 students and staff members showed up, ready to hear the speakers — both student and formal — we had lined up. 

After giving a brief introduction about Green Alliance and the goal of the climate forum, Clint Fultz from Citizens’ Climate Lobby spoke, giving students an insight on the devastating and serious effects of climate change.

“The more people who are aware of the situation, the greater the diversity of ideas that will be brought to the table to help us provide solutions for a livable future,” Fultz said in an interview.

Westlake High School senior Tate Moyer spoke next, providing students a more relatable topic: consumerism and materialism. Moyer discussed the cyclical nature of spending and purchasing, the way media and advertising fuel the consumerist mentality, and how to reduce one’s ecological footprint in regards to clothing. 

“I encourage you to take this opportunity to be that force, be the driving energy behind change, make the necessary shifts in your life in order to set a movement into motion,” Moyer said. “Because even though you might feel discouraged by the seemingly insignificant nature of your actions, remember that change can be ignited by even the smallest spark.”

Following Moyer was Westlake High School senior Sam Ratcliffe, who changed the course of discussion from consumerism to governmental officials.

A major concern among the public is the lack of action taken by many officials, so Ratcliffe addressed the need to vote for politicians who endorse climate justice and things like a carbon tax, clean air and water regulations, renewable energy, etc. 

“A global emergency is upon us, and we have ourselves, and particularly our leaders to blame for the crisis we currently face … Before we vote, we also have to know who and what to vote for. We have to be informed, be engaged, and be interested in the information.”

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Closing the forum was Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios, District Director of Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (who was planning on attending, but fell ill the night prior to the event). Sanchez-Palacios brought a more distinguished voice to the forum, having worked with and currently working closely with politicians like Irwin.

During the remainder of the forum, Sanchez-Palacios and Fultz answered questions from the audience. 

With those two events, climate week came to a close. But after seeing how little notice was given for both events and how many people participated nonetheless incited a realization in me more real than previously: we need to take action.

Simply reposting tweets and sharing hashtags on social media (though it doens’t hurt) is not enough, nor a sufficient solution to the climate crisis. Discussing it and exhibiting to potentially uninformed citizens is the most effective way to spur more letters to politicians, bills being passed, funds to environmental organizations, and legitimate change in the face of such devastation.

As students and as inhabitants of this planet, we have a voice, so let’s use them.