After 40 years of arguing, dithering, blowing smoke, and outright denying, a vast majority acknowledges that the global climate is changing. Most of us also accept that our own activity — especially the use of fossil fuels — has brought about this unwelcome change. The ice caps are melting even faster than predicted. Droughts, floods, and hurricanes are breaking records more and more frequently. Agriculture and fishing have been disrupted, deadly heat waves make parts of the world unbearable, and immigration increases as people seek to escape these negative impacts.
Despite the dawning realization that we are facing a major problem, many of us never get beyond business as usual. That is changing. Perhaps the loudest group of people demanding change these days is young people. As well they should.
Our young people will pay the highest price for this global emergency, which they did not create. Starting in November of last year, a series of “climate strikes” has mobilized young people all over the world — in 106 countries — to walk out of their schools and take to the streets. They demand that their parents and all older people recognize that the future is in serious jeopardy. The next global strike starts on Friday, Sept. 20 with more protests scheduled for the entire week ending on Sept. 27.
Greta Thunberg, a high school student in Sweden, is widely credited with starting this youth movement. She was 13 years old when she stopped going to school every Friday in order to demonstrate in front of the Swedish Parliament. Now she is a seasoned 16-year-old organizer. She chose the date for this fourth strike because of the U.N. climate summit in New York on Sept. 23, which she will attend after crossing the Atlantic on a sailboat.
Over a million young people participated in the strike in March of this year, but this coming strike on Sept. 20 may be the biggest one so far because the young organizers are urging people of all ages to join them. Two local events are planned. The Sunrise Movement, comprised of students, will march from the Humboldt State University quad and arrive at the Plaza at approximately noon. The other demonstration, organized by 350 Humboldt, will take place at the county courthouse in Eureka from 3-7 p.m.Please participate in whatever way you can. Try to recognize in some way during the next week in particular that business as usual is not sufficient. We must as a society find a way forward to a workable future.
You can take action in other ways as well. Humboldt county is currently working on its Climate Action Plan (CAP). Contact your county supervisor with your ideas for how county government can act to lessen our emissions. Top priorities are developing clean, renewable energy, and reducing how much energy we use. Land use practices are also important because we can maximize carbon sequestration and reduce other greenhouse gases through agriculture and forestry.
Also, Humboldt County’s primary energy provider, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, has invited the public to help them update its Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy (CAPE). Visit redwoodenergy.org/services/planning to find a link for the draft update and to see the list of meetings where you can show up to comment. Or email RCEA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another important thing you can do is to join an organization that is working to curb climate change. Group action can amplify your individual efforts, help you feel less lonely, and keep you informed of local climate campaigns and news.
I belong to 350 Humboldt, which is affiliated with 350.org, the international organization started by Bill McKibben in 2008. The number 350 was originally a warning. It referred to a threshold of parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that our planet must not pass if we hoped to stop climate change. We are now at 415 ppm. That means we can no longer avoid climate change, but we can still hope to curb its worst potential. We meet on the third Thursday of every month at the Chipolte Restaurant in Sunny Brae.
350 Humboldt has successfully introduced clean energy resolutions to local municipalities and to the Board of Supervisors and Redwood Coast Energy Authority. These entities have promised to work for a hundred percent clean and renewable energy by 2025. Help make these promises a reality. There is no time to be lost.
Martha Walden resides in Westhaven.