Honks from passing cars accompanied cheers and chants from young environmental activists toting signs Friday morning in Laguna Beach to demand greater action to fight climate change.
One demonstrator cried out, “What do we need?” and the group gathered at Main Beach Park shouted back, “Solutions!” The demonstrator asked again, “Where do we need it?” The group shouted back, “Congress!”
The crowd shouted over and over again, “Be the solution, not the pollution.”
The rally was intended to show solidarity with more than 5,000 similar demonstrations in 156 countries — including more than 100 in California — for the Global Climate Strike led by young activists like Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, 16, who became known for her three-week protest of the Swedish parliament over what she considered inaction on the climate crisis.
Friday’s demonstrations — which elsewhere in Orange County were scheduled for Huntington Beach, Tustin, Irvine, Orange, Anaheim, Brea and Los Alamitos — are the beginning of a week-long campaign corresponding with the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday in New York. Another Global Climate Strike is planned for Sept. 27.
“We children and students don’t feel like we have a choice: It’s been years of talking, countless negotiations, empty deals on climate change, fossil fuel companies being given free rides to drill beneath our soils and burn away our futures for their profit,” Greta and other “strike” organizers wrote in May.
“I think we have a big responsibility [to protest climate change], and everyone does,” said Zen Mir-Scaer, 12, who helped organize the rally in Laguna Beach with his mother and his twin brother, Keanu.
“We want a future,” Keanu interjected. “If we don’t act, no one will and then there won’t be any future.”
The Laguna Beach demonstrators came from all over south Orange County. Among them were Mia Helminiak and Katie Price, both of San Clemente.
Helminiak and Price said they worked in the fashion industry and saw waste firsthand. Price said she, Helminiak and another friend either started their own companies or are now with companies that align with their values.
“I think it’s important that we, as in the regular population, don’t have to have a specific plan,” said Helminiak, 30. “I think what’s important is that we show we care so that the lawmakers, even on a very regional level, hear us and actually start doing something.”
Helminiak said it’s great that young people care about the planet and that their parents and people like herself are supporting their cause. She said she hopes the U.N. summit will result in numbers and goals that countries would reach — “not just trying, but [that] we’ll actually do.”
She said people could help make a difference in the fight against global warming by driving less and using carpools to reduce carbon emissions, using less plastic and supporting brands that are changing the materials they use. Some studies say plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in various ways, from its production and refining to the way it is managed as a waste product.
“You vote with your dollar, so I think it’s important that we all do our part,” Helminiak said.
Kristian Suazo, 14, a freshman at San Juan Hills High School in San Juan Capistrano, said he decided to participate in the climate strike after hearing about it through family members and social media.
He said politicians have acknowledged climate change but aren’t doing enough to address it.
“Young people in their 20s and really young people like me, this is our Earth. We need to live on it as much as people before us did, and climate change — it threatens us all,” Kristian said. “Young people ... need to stand up to fight for our planet.”