Chanting from hundreds of Arcata High School students echoed down H Street into the Arcata Plaza on Friday morning.
“No coal, no oil, keep the carbon in the soil,” many of the voices chanted.
The Arcata High students joined several local high schools in participating in the Global Youth Climate Strike, which was largely inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg.
As the Arcata High students marched into the plaza, they gathered around the circular planter in the middle of the plaza.
Arcata High student Jack Taylor was the first of several speakers.
“Today we stand against a challenge like no other generation has ever faced,” he said. “Yet looking out, I see a sea of people who aren’t afraid to take on this challenge.”
Taylor said the last time the earth’s carbon dioxide levels were “this high,” it was more than three million years ago with temperatures higher than during the pre-industrial era, and sea levels up to 80 feet above where they are now.
“We students march today for our future, but we won’t have one if the grown-ups refuse to do anything about it,” he said.
Arcata Councilwoman Sofia Pereira addressed the crowd next.
“I am so inspired by the energy that is here on our plaza,” she said. “Arcata has been an environmental leader for decades and it’s because of young people that we’ve been able to earn that legacy.”
Pereira listed the various measures the city has taken to become more climate-friendly, including advancing clean energy, implementing zero waste initiatives, developing electric vehicle infrastructure and building bike paths. She invited students to engage with city hall as students further pursue climate advocacy.
“Thank you for all you’re doing,” she said.
Arcata resident Joe Mateer was at the rally to watch his son speak, and said it was important to recognize that politicians, industry, businesses and consumers are all part of the climate crisis.
“When you make a choice to have children, you’re thinking about the future and what world they’re going to live in. That’s something that weighed heavily on my mind,” he said.
“It’s nice to see that he’s taking direct action and recognizing that they’re the ones that are gonna be affected by the choices that we’ve made,” he added.
Milo Mateer, Joe Mateer’s son, closed out the rally on the plaza, calling out complacency in the face of a climate crisis.
Many at the levers of power are procrastinating “worse than any modern-day high schooler,” he said, who stand by at a time when “natural disasters are no longer natural.”
Mateer then called to his peers, encouraging them into future action.
“We can’t wait until we’re old enough because by then it might be irreversible,” he said. “We are the future, the world is our home.”
Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.