Global Strike for Future – San Luis Obispo

Young climate activists rock!

Last Friday, I stood near the back of a crowd of students at a Global Strike for Future rally in San Luis Obispo, CA holding a sign that said, “I’m with them.”

My spouse and I arrived late so we naturally ended up at the back of the group. Rather than politely weave in and out of the crowd to get closer to the speaker as I would normally do, I hung back.

This event was not for me (an adult many years out of school). It was for the young people who were striking from school to protest inaction on climate change by the adults that are currently in charge.

I was not even sure if I should be there at all. However, I wanted to show support for the school strikers and you can never have too many people at a rally.

Global Strike for Future Rally in San Luis Obispo, CA on March 15, 2019
Part of the crowd near the end of the Global Strike for Future rally in San Luis Obispo, CA on March 15, 2019. My spouse is holding my sign in the back under the tree while I take photos.

So why were kids striking on a school day?

Fridays for Future Movement

On Monday, August 20, 2018, instead of showing up at school, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg decided to skip school to stand outside the Swedish parliament building holding a sign saying “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (school strike for the climate). She did this every school day until the Swedish general election on September 9, 2018.

After the election, she continued to strike on Fridays protesting the lack of action on the climate crisis. She posted what she was doing and why she was doing it on social media and it went viral. This was the beginning of the #FridaysForFuture movement.

During her 3 ½-minute December 2018 speech at COP24 (the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change) in Katowice, Poland Greta Thunberg put world leaders on notice.

“We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”

Young people all over the world have joined the #FridaysForFuture movement.

The day before the Global Strike for Future Greta Thunberg received a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Global Strike for Future

The Global Strike for Future was a worldwide event with student actions occurring on Friday, March 15, 2019, in thousands of cities in over a hundred countries.

From reading news accounts and social media feeds it appears that hundreds of thousands and maybe even more than a million kids took time off from school to demand that world leaders live up to the Paris Climate Agreement and take action to keep global warming below 1.5° (C).

Sure, these kids could hold rallies and marches after school or on weekends but it would not be nearly as impactful. I think the civil disobedience aspect of skipping school as well as the sheer number of kids doing it is what is making the world take notice.

San Luis Obispo Rally

I first heard about the San Luis Obispo Global Strike for Future events when Brandon O’Rourke showed up at the March 7 SLO Climate Coalition meeting. He told us that students at several schools would be striking and that a student rally was going to be held outside the courthouse.

By the next day, Brandon O’Rourke, Tara Hale, Carmen Bouquin, Noel Clark, Erika Wilson had posted an event page on social media with more specifics. They posted updates during the week. That is how I knew when and where to show up for the rally.

The organizers held a sign-making party for students and had signs available at the rally. I recycled my Women’s March sign with materials I printed from the FridaysForFuture website.

During the rally, there were speakers, chants, and singing. The crowd was mostly young people with a few older people like me sprinkled here and there.

Luke Dunn at Global Strike for Future in San Luis Obispo, CA

Luke Dunn took the microphone for a couple of minutes and invited participants to join the SLO Climate Coalition, which is a community group working to create a carbon-free San Luis Obispo city and county.

As the rally was wrapping up, I took the opportunity to talk with a few people and take photos. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted the note in my smartphone with their names (sigh).

A follow-up session was scheduled for Sunday at a local park to give the students an opportunity to debrief and talk about the next actions.

What Can You Do?

I was heartened to see local young people taking an interest in keeping Earth habitable for themselves and everyone else. We are all in this together, now.

School protests related to climate change may be a relatively new phenomenon but students have been making their voices heard on and off campus for decades.

For instance, the 1970 Earth Day teach-ins held at thousands of schools across the United States energized the environmental movement and led to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency and far-reaching legislation like the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.

People in the streets demanding action get things done. That includes kids.

Having kids participate in school strikes can present challenges like ensuring everyone’s safety, making up for missed classes, and respecting kids that do not want to strike. This is an opportunity for older people to help the younger generation become active members of society.

Let’s engage our kids and work with them to enable them to make their voices heard, be safe, and get their homework done. Here are a few thought starters.

  • Support actions kids want to take.
  • Help kids and schools with logistics.
  • Provide transportation.
  • Give financial support.
  • Be a mentor.
  • Host a sign making party.
  • Rent or loan audio/visual equipment.
  • Provide a meeting place.
  • Offer your expertise.
  • Spread the word.

I am looking forward to what these young climate activists do next.

Featured Image at Top: Global Strike for Future Logo.

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San Luis Obispo 2019 Women’s March

Speak your own truth to power.

You might not think that the Women’s March has anything to do with the environment or climate change, but I think it does and this is why.

The beautiful but ailing sphere that we call Earth is home to billions of people and billions of other livings things. On Earth, the environment is continuous and does not recognize county lines, state boundaries, or international borders. We are all connected, our fates intertwined.

In nature, diversity is a strength. The healthiest ecosystems are the ones with the most biodiversity. We humans need to use our own diversity to help heal our Earth.

On Saturday, January 19, 2019, the Women’s March leaders in San Luis Obispo, CA demonstrated that they get this by advocating equality, respect, and love for people of every gender, hue, belief, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ability, and age—meaning everyone.

This post contains a few highlights of my experience as an environmentalist at the Women’s March.

Reusable Protest, March, Rally Sign

The day before the Women’s March, I realized I needed to make a sign.

I discovered the power of carrying a sign during the March for Real Leadership in Oakland, CA on February 7, 2015 (my first march). That day, fortunately, generous artists had made signs for people like me who did not bring one. I still have it.

Since then, I usually make my own signs. Thanks to my handy spouse, our signs are environmentally friendly because they are reusable. The base sign is black corrugated plastic with a removable pole. We use water-soluble paints and rubber cement that peels off. Then after a quick wipe with a wet towel a sign that used to say, “I Heart Science” (for the March for Science) is ready to become a different sign.

With only one day to make a sign, it was a good thing that I already knew what I wanted on mine.

If I was artistic, I would have drawn and painted a likeness of the Statue of Liberty on my sign, but I am not, so I found an image on the Internet, printed it, and attached it with rubber cement. Luckily, we had white and orange paint on hand. I sketched out the letters in pencil but things quickly got out of control when I had a paintbrush in my hand. I painted this year’s theme “Truth to Power” on the back.

At the March, I attached a couple of stickers to my sign that I obtained in Call to Action Alley.

Call to Action Alley

When my spouse and I arrived at Mitchell Park carrying our signs, we discovered that we were at the entrance of Call to Action Alley where booths for a variety of nonprofit organizations had been set up along the walkway.

Call to Action Alley beckoned but I paused eying it with trepidation.

I am one of those shy introverted people who are often uncomfortable talking with people I do not know. On the other hand, I like talking with people to learn and gain other perspectives. I even joy debate, as long as it is friendly. I know weird, right.

My spouse patiently reminded me that the people staffing these booths were there because they wanted to engage with the public and they were probably used to dealing with all sorts of people.

Plucking up a bit of courage, I stuffed my comfort zone into my pocket and we headed into the fray. Unsurprisingly, regardless of how inarticulate I was, the people I spoke with were nice and seemed genuinely interested in talking with me about their organizations. I came away feeling more informed about several groups.

The photos below are of a few of the volunteers I spoke with along Call to Action Alley. I asked them if I could take their pictures but I forgot to ask their names, sigh.

I admit that it was a relief to find some familiar faces near the end of the Alley at the SLO Climate Coalition booth. The Coalition is a community group committed to creating a carbon-free San Luis Obispo city and county. I am new to the group, but I have met several of the members. The photo below is of the contingent of volunteers at the booth before the hordes arrived after the march through downtown San Luis Obispo.

SLO Climate Coalition Booth - Women's March San Luis Obispo, CA - January 19, 2019
Sarah Flickinger, Donna Durek, Mike Horgan, June Cochran, and Elyssa Edwards (left to right) volunteering at the SLO Climate Coalition booth at the Women’s March in San Luis Obispo, CA on January 19, 2019.

Women’s March

After talking with people in Call to Action Alley, I was happy to stand on the lawn with my sign and listen to several speakers, a poet, and two musicians.

Near the beginning of the speeches, the police chief stood at the microphone smiling and told the crowd she was happy to see us and that the police were there to support us. She did not even lecture us about safety or being on good behavior.

The speakers were diverse, powerful, and thankfully brief (crowds have a short attention span). In between speakers, we were entertained with a poem featuring the word “bucko” and the songs I Won’t Back Down and Fight Song.

Adequately riled up and ready to hit the streets our crowd of about 4,500 people headed off to march (stroll) through downtown San Luis Obispo.

Music and the scent of food cooking greeted us as we arrived back at the park.

Speaking Truth to Power 101

Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan’s speech resonated with me. She used part of her time to do what she said she does best which is to teach. Leola inspired us with a crash course in Speaking Truth to Power 101 in five steps. This is my interpretation of what Leola said.

Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan - Women's March in San Luis Obispo, CA - January 19, 2019
Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan speaking at Women’s March in San Luis Obispo, CA on January 19, 2019. Photo credit David Middlecamp at The Tribune (click photo for link to article).

  1. Find Your Passion – everyone has something she or he cares about and if you are not angry about something that is going on in the world right now you are probably not paying attention.
  2. Find Your People – as you pursue your passion, these people work alongside you, support you, laugh with you, cry with you, and protect you.
  3. Find Your Platform – amplify your voice, stand strong, stand proud, be loud, and stand for others.
  4. Find Your Power – find the warrior inside of you, roar your truth, understand the ramifications of speaking out and do it anyways.
  5. Find Your Place – this is your happy place, safe place, and healing place where you renew your spirit.

It has been almost eight years since I quit my corporate job to found Green Groundswell with the mission to convince myself and other unlikely environmentalists to live more lightly on Earth.

Since that time, I have been searching for and finding my people. My people include my family and friends who continue to love and support me even when I am ranting and raving that my hair is on fire about one environmental issue or another and I do not understand why everyone else’s hair is not on fire.

Find your people and speak your truth to power.

Featured Image at Top: This is the front my 2019 Women’s March sign with the stickers I added at the March. It says “Truth to Power” on the back.

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