Youths Organize Historic Climate Protest to Help Save Earth

Adults have been sitting on their hands, so kids all over the world have started taking matters into their own hands. More events are planned for this week.

Isha Clarke thought maybe 10,000 people would show up.

Instead, she addressed and led a throng of an estimated 40,000 in last Friday’s Climate Strike. The crowd, led by children and adolescents but composed of people of all ages, made a strong showing as San Francisco’s contribution to a global climate protest. It is thought to be the largest global protest related to the climate crisis in history.

“It was beautiful that there were so many different young people from so many backgrounds,” Clarke said. “It was empowering to see young people come out and stand for climate justice.”

Protestors met outside the Federal Building on 7th Street and marched down Market Street, raising their voices in chants (“This is what democracy looks like!”) and shaking signs (“No sides in climate change”) with emotion. The march eventually snaked its way to Embarcadero Plaza, where Clarke emcee’d a rally, detailing a list of demands heartbreaking in their simplicity (e.g. “We demand a safe, healthy, and just planet”).

If Clarke’s name sounds familiar, it may be because she was part of the group whose interaction with Senator Dianne Feinstein went viral earlier this year. She’s a junior at MetWest High School in Oakland, and said that while the organization she’s a part of, Youth Vs. Apocalypse, has an indeterminate number of members — after the Feinstein video went viral, they got a lot of members at other schools that are hard to keep track of — it has a “solid leadership group” of 15-30 that did the most to help organize the march on Friday.

The rally showed signs of hope: Clarke and her fellow Youth Vs. Apocalypse members ran a high-energy, fast-paced event; they provided protestors specific activities they could carry out that might have an impact; the event itself was eco-friendly, as volunteers on stationary bikes pedaled to power the rally’s sound system. Turnout was also impressive, with some attendees coming from miles away.

Brynn Pewtherer took her daughters Hazel and Molly out of school and brought them 20 miles south from San Anselmo to participate in the Climate Strike.

Hazel, 9, said that she and her classmates sometimes talk about climate change. Part of the reason she wanted to attend the protest was because she loves nature.

“I like animals and the environment is important if we want them to stay alive,” she told SF Weekly.

The global climate protests like the one Youth Vs. Apocalypse helped organize were planned to coincide with the Climate Action Summit held by the United Nations in New York City this past weekend. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old normal-kid-turned-international-climate-icon, cheered on the various climate strikes and marches from New York ahead of her speech at the summit.

“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear,” Thunberg said. “How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

Nothing of consequence emerged from the summit itself — a bunch of right-wing pundits attacking Thunberg, a teenage girl, for correctly pointing out that world leaders haven’t done nearly enough to avert catastrophic changes to the planet, while world leaders refused to commit to anything — which made protests like the one in San Francisco more significant.

“This climate crisis threatens our ability to live,” said Ziora, 7, to thousands of people at Embarcadero Plaza. Some of the people on hand for Ziora’s remarks will take part in another protest later this week. On Friday, Clarke and others will take a bus of protestors from the Lake Merritt BART station to Chevron’s headquarters in San Ramon.

“Chevron has historically targeted communities of color,” Clarke says. “That’s having detrimental effects on those communities.”

The protest at Chevron will wrap up a week of planned events and protests, but not the efforts of Clarke and her compatriots. The inaction of others to this point spurs them to greater and greater actions.

“The reality is, for me and people my age, this is all we’ve ever known,” she says. “Yes, it’s frustrating, but it does nothing for us to just sit in those emotions with no actions, because then we’re afraid of what will come to pass. We have to turn our anger and frustration into action because that’s our only ticket out of this.”

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