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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Voice of the River – Book Review

You can be an activist at any age.

Voice of the River is a fascinating tale about Marjory Stoneman Douglas the “Grandmother of the Everglades.” This book is her autobiography created by author John Rothchild from numerous visits with her and over 200 hours of recordings.

Ever since 2013, each March I make a point of reading at least one book by or about a woman environmentalist in honor of Women’s History Month. Throughout the year, I add books to my running “to read” list and then in February I decide which book to read for March.

One year I discovered Marjory Stoneman Douglas and her now famous 1947 book The Everglades: River of Grass and intended to read it. However, our local library system did not have the book so I left it on my “to read” list hoping to find a used copy at some point in the future.

Voice of the River Book Cover

Last September, far from the Florida Everglades, I stumbled across Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the River in a used bookstore located in downtown Omaha, Nebraska. At first, I thought it was the book on my list but when I realized it was Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ autobiography, I instantly knew that I wanted to read the book for Women’s History Month 2019.

It turned out to be one of those books that you cannot put down.

Book Review

Although neither Marjory Stoneman Douglas or John Rothchild knew it at the time, their joint book project Voice of the River was initiated at a 1973 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public hearing about a proposed suburb on the edges of the Everglades National Park. They were both opposed to the development.

In the book’s introduction, Rothchild describes getting to know Douglas and gives you a preview of the woman you are about to meet. Make sure you wear cool clothes because as you take a seat in the main room of her tiny home in Coconut Grove, Florida you will notice she does not have air conditioning. Prepare to be entertained and surprised by her story.

This excerpt sets the stage.

“The hardest thing is to tell the truth about oneself. One doesn’t like to remember unpleasant details, but forgetting them makes one’s life seem disorganized. I’m not at all sure how to go along but I’ll begin at the beginning.”

The first section of the book covers Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ early years from her birth on April 7, 1890, in Minneapolis, Minnesota through her tumultuous childhood, the years she spent earning her degree at Wellesley College, and what turned out to be a strange and short marriage. If you are paying attention, you will get a glimpse of the environmentalist she will later become as she recalls her father reading to her from the Song of Hiawatha.

Next, Douglas recounts moving to Florida in 1915 to live with her father and stepmother. This is where she launched her life as a writer by accepting a temporary assignment as the Miami Herald’s society editor. After a short stint overseas in 1918 with the American Red Cross near the end of World War I, she returned home and expanded her role at the newspaper. She also got involved with a group of people advocating for an Everglades National Park.

Moving on, Douglas talks about deciding in 1924 to focus on her freelance writing and how she made her living writing articles and short stories for the next 15 years. She became a homeowner in 1926 and she was still living in the same house during the writing of this book. She often said that projects just sort of fell into her lap and that was the case with her most famous book.

The Everglades-River of Grass Book Cover

Early in the 1940s, Hervey Allen asked her to write a book about the Miami River for a Rivers of America series. She recalls responding by saying, “Hervey, you can’t write a book about the Miami River. It’s only about an inch long.” She thought the Miami River and the Everglades were connected and she suggested writing a book about that. He agreed.

After several years of research and writing, The Everglades: River of Grass hit the bookstores in November 1947. All 7,500 copies of that first edition were sold by Christmas that year.

20 years after the publication of The Everglades: River of Grass Marjory Stoneman Douglas became an environmental activist. She founded the Friends of the Everglades when Michael Chenoweth handed her a dollar and became its first member. She was 78 at the time. Over the next twenty years or so, she became a staunch advocate for protecting the Everglades.

At the end of the book, Douglas shares her thoughts on politics, old age, and faith.

The Bottom Line

Marjory Stoneman Douglas epitomizes the proverbial woman ahead of her time. An independent and outspoken woman, she was a suffragist, journalist, civil rights supporter, author, environmentalist, speaker, and an activist. She continued working into her second century and lived to 108.

John Rothchild is an author who had the distinct honor of helping Marjory Stoneman Douglas with her autobiography. I think he did a masterful job of creating a book that brings her to life for readers in the 21st century and beyond.

Reading Voice of the River I could imagine myself sitting and talking with Marjory Stoneman Douglas. She was both lyrical and forthright. I was amazed at some of the things I learned about her. I hope you will read the book to discover this remarkable woman for yourself.

Blue Heron and Alligator at Everglades National Park
A blue heron and an alligator hanging out in Everglades National Park. Photo credit – D. Harris/Everglades National Park Service. Click here to open the photo.

In 1993, when she was 103, President Bill Clinton awarded Marjory Stoneman Douglas the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor granted by the U.S. The medal citation reads:

“Marjory Stoneman Douglas personifies passionate commitment. Her crusade to preserve and restore the Everglades has enhanced our Nation’s respect for our precious environment, reminding all of us of nature’s delicate balance. Grateful Americans honor the ‘Grandmother of the Glades’ by following her splendid example in safeguarding America’s beauty and splendor for generations to come.”

I am still interested in reading The Everglades: River of Grass. Perhaps someday I will find a copy in another bookstore far from Everglades.

Featured Image at Top: Sawgrass prairie at the Everglades National Park – photo credit G. Gardner/Everglades National Park Service. Click here to open the photo.

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