Hundreds of students from across Los Angeles County joined a worldwide walkout from school Friday as part of a day of action to demand that more be done to combat climate change.
The local protest, which began around noon outside City Hall, was part of an international youth movement calling for swift action to prevent or mitigate the devastating effects of human-caused global warming.
Sofia Cervantes, 16, and her brother Leo Crespo-Cervantes, 18, took the Metrolink train to downtown L.A. from Claremont to join the demonstration.
Sofia said the effects of a warming climate have become a growing concern for her generation — especially in Southern California, where a prolonged fire season could mean extensive damage.
“It is terrifying,” the sophomore at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts said. “We are never going to get our planet back to the way it was. Everyone — every generation — needs to work together on this now.”
She said she has been inspired by the wave of student activism, especially the work of Swedish student Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Hugh Thomas, an 18-year-old at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, said he also was inspired by Greta, who started the international movement.
“She is the reason we are all out here. She gave us the confidence,” said Thomas, a senior.
He said that while local politicians say they want to address climate change, he thinks their rhetoric is done simply to persuade voters.
He wants swifter action.
“I want my kids to live,” he said. “I want them to have a happy life and to enjoy the Earth and the water.”
There is a lot on Rosalinda Contreras’ mind right now. The 18-year-old is a senior at La Mirada High School. She wants to major in biology and study oceans and wetlands.
“I don’t even know if I want to have kids because I don’t know what the future is going to hold,” she said.
Contreras, who is registered to vote, said politicians in the U.S. and around the world need to take a bolder stance on addressing a warming planet.
“They need to see that this is an issue we aren’t going to let go,” she said. “We can vote them out if they don’t listen.”
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report last year saying that without dramatic steps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the air, global temperatures could reach a tipping point in only a dozen years.
The report stated that, within a generation, the planet could see even more catastrophic wildfires, worsening food shortages and a mass die-off of coral reefs, among other effects.
Young people all over the globe have been at the forefront of the latest protests over politicians’ slow response to climate change.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was recorded debating with a group of schoolchildren over climate change policy last month. The viral video revealed generational tensions brewing over how aggressively to combat climate change.