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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Green New Deal for the 21st Century

The Green New Deal is an emerging idea that is gaining momentum because it gives us a vision of a better future and a way forward that includes everyone.

Imagine living in the United States of America where clean air, clean water, healthy food, a safe place to study, work, and live, and an opportunity to thrive is available and accessible to everyone.

Even though the framers of the U.S. Constitution were not a diverse bunch (being all white men), I still think they envisioned the America that I described above and said so in the preamble to the Constitution using late 18th-century language.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Everyone needs a habitable planet to live on but the U.S. federal government is actively making climate change worse by ramping up fossil fuel development, dismantling protections for people and the environment, and denying that there is a problem.

Apparently, many of our elected officials have forgotten whom they work for or just do not care. We the people need to take back our power and demand that they either step to the plate or take a hike (we made progress during the last election).

The Green New Deal could be the rallying cry we so desperately need to unite us and mobilize our country to do the work necessary to keep Earth habitable for everyone.

So, what is the Green New Deal? After a quick refresher of the 1930s New Deal that inspired the Green New Deal, we will take a look the green version.

1930s New Deal

The stock market crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression that was well underway in 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president and declared,

“I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.”

By the time he took office on March 4, 1933, the banking system had collapsed, unemployment was at almost 25%, and millions of people had lost their homes and farms.

As he had promised the American people, President Roosevelt immediately set about making the New Deal a reality.

Civilian Conservation Corps Rock Creek Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas
Bridge across Rock Creek in Little Rock, Arkansas built by the Civilian Conservation Corps – Photo Credit Eric Hunt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

From 1933 to 1936, millions of federally funded jobs put people back to work on projects as diverse as planting trees to building bridges to painting murals, new federal agencies formed, and Congress enacted legislation reforming the banking industry and stock market, strengthening protections for workers, and setting up the social security system.

A lot has changed in the United States since the New Deal ended some eighty or so years ago. The Green New Deal is for the country we are today.

2020s Green New Deal

Ideas for a Green New Deal have been swirling around for well over a decade but had not gained much traction, until just after the November 2018 elections.

On November 13, 2018, young activists wearing black Sunrise Movement t-shirts and holding yellow signs saying “Green Jobs for All” and “What is Your Plan?” occupied soon to be Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a newly elected congresswoman from New York stopped by to add her support for a Green New Deal.

The Sunrise Movement’s message is simple, audacious, and inclusive.

“We’re fighting for a just transition to 100% renewable energy within 12 years—the time frame set by the world’s leading climate scientists.”

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and other representatives supported the formation of a House Select Committee for a Green New Deal with the authority to develop a detailed national Green New Deal plan and draft legislation in 2 years or less, with implementation taking place the following 10 years (currently there is no plan to do anything).

Major goals of the Plan include:

  • Transitioning to 100% renewable energy
  • Building a national smart electricity grid
  • Making all buildings energy efficient, comfortable, and safe
  • Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing, agriculture, and other industries
  • Upgrading water infrastructure to ensure everyone has access to clean water
  • Investing in drawing down greenhouse gases
  • Making “green” a major U.S. export and helping other countries bring about a global Green New Deal
  • Guaranteeing a living wage job to every person who wants one
  • Helping people transition from fossil fuel energy jobs
  • Providing a just transition for all workers and people living in disadvantaged communities

Speaker of the House Pelosi, who has the power to establish committees and appoint representatives to committees, nixed the idea.

Instead, she decided to resurrect the Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming (2007-2010) renaming it the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and appointing Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida to chair it. This committee will not be working on a plan for a Green New Deal.

The thing is the proverbial genie is out of the bottle. The Green New Deal idea is garnering increasing media attention and gaining proponents in the House of Representatives. Even a few 2020 presidential hopefuls are talking about it.

“Green is the new red, white and blue.” – Thomas L. Friedman

What Can You Do?

  • Learn more about the Green New Deal. Of course, you can read whatever you want; however, on your behalf, I have slogged through dozens of articles and selected several that I think will give you a good grasp of the topic and will point you to other articles and resources.
  • Talk about the Green New Deal with your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and community leaders.
  • Tell your elected officials that you want them to support the Green New Deal and share with them what is important to you.
  • Join an organization that is mobilizing to support the Green New Deal.
  • Participate in a Green New Deal protest march, sit-in, or rally (please refrain from hopping on an airplane to do so).

I am in. Are you in?

Featured Image at Top: Piece of paper in a typewriter with the words “If not now, when?” – Photo Credit iStock/IvelinRadkov

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