Thousands of high school and college students skipped classes on Friday and converged on Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles, vociferously joining the worldwide global climate strike protests to draw attention to climate change.
Schools throughout the region also hosted “walk-ins” and rallies. The global climate strike is inspired by youth protests and championed by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist who met with members of Congress on Wednesday.
Here are some of the voices from the Los Angeles rally:
Cindy Tong, 14, San Gabriel
Cindy took a bus from San Gabriel alone to Pershing Square on Friday to attend her first ever protest. She held up a sign with a quote from Greta, the climate activist, and said she was skipping school without permission for the first time.
“It affects, like, so many people and so many species; if we don’t take care of it we have nothing left,” she said.
She tries to push her family to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. She takes utensils to school and encourages her parents to use reusable water bottles. She is trying to be vegetarian and eat whole foods to avoid unnecessary packaging. Her mom doesn’t mind most of the changes, Cindy said. The upside? “It gets me to eat more vegetables,” she said.
But this freshman at San Gabriel High school said she is most worried about the effects of extreme weather shifts.
“I don’t want the weather to be so extreme that we can’t live on the Earth anymore,” she said.
Yasmeen Tsipena, 17, Encino
Yasmeen Tsipena said she is afraid of the harm others will suffer around the world if Americans continue environmentally unsustainable habits.
“At the end of the day, climate change...that’s going to impact the entire world in different ways in different areas,” said Yasmeen, a senior at the International School of Los Angeles in Burbank.
“So whether that’s drought or floods or monsoons...there is something we can do to stop that in advance,” said Yasmeen, who sat in Pershing Square next to classmate Zeina Hassan, 16, of Beverly Hills.
The students didn’t have to worry about ditching class — their private school told them absences would be excused to attend the protest, the teens said.
“We’re so young but our future is so limited if we keep emitting and we keep trashing the Earth the way we have been,” said Yasmeen, who wants to pursue a career in sustainable fashion. Now she is focused on educating herself and others in the science of climate change so they can be effective advocates and shut down naysayers.
Emily Dewell, 20, Fullerton
Emily Dewell took a train with her classmates from Fullerton College to support the call for government action on climate change.
“We need at least some sort of bills passed about emissions or to at least follow the Paris agreement,” she said.
She’s studying environmental science and sustainability so she can make an impact on what she believes will soon be a pressing need — access to fresh water.
Skate Courduff, 20, Northridge
Skate Courduff is worried for herself and her future children and grandchildren. “Knowing that they’re not going to have a world with good natural resources, not going to have clean air to breathe, the world is going to be on fire,” said Courduff, a Cal State Northridge film student. She and her film teacher both skipped class to attend the event, she said.
“I’m OK with missing class because...what’s the use of getting a diploma when there’s not going to be a world to use it on?” Courduff asked. Leaders all over the world, especially President Trump, “have to do something,” she said, holding a sign that read “schools strike for climate” in Swedish, a nod to Greta.
Aliou Sullivan, 10, Long Beach
Aliou Sullivan first learned about the ills of fossil fuels in fourth grade. The 10-year-old and his dad, Michael, took the bus from Long Beach to Pershing Square for the climate strike because “kids in the world such as me need to have a good future,” he said, holding a sign he made on recycled cardboard that read, “There is no Planet B.”
Aliou and his father bike and walk as much as possible, and other adults need to do their part too, he said. “They should start using bikes more and the people in power should make highways and freeways smaller” so commuters will use more public transit, Aliou said.
“I’m kind of mad and sad about how the Earth is changing, it shouldn’t be changing,” he said. The fossil fuels that make cars run “pollute so much” he said, looking up at the sky. “I hate watching trucks, the exhaust coming out.”
Axayacatzi Kuauhtzin, 12, Los Angeles
Axayacatzi Kuauhtzin, 12, was among the crowd who filled a block along Hill Street. She stood with her classmates from Anahuacalmecac International Preparatory High School of North America in Los Angeles, holding a sign that read “let us grow as we once did Indigenous People across Mother Earth.“
“As indigenous youth we have heard our elders and learned from our ancestors that as Earth guardians and water protectors we must stand for the truth,” she said. She called on politicians to meet with indigenous leaders and elders to learn about how they protected their land and resources.