From young children and their families in Laguna Beach to high school students in Huntington Beach and college seniors at UC Irvine, young people gathered at rallies across Orange County and elsewhere Friday to demand more be done to fight climate change.
They joined others participating in a global Youth Climate Strike started by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thurnberg, who drew international attention with her speech at the United Nations in December accusing diplomats of inaction.
Groups in Laguna, Huntington and Irvine rallied for public awareness and policy changes, including support for the Green New Deal outlined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Gianna Lum, president of the UC Irvine student club Climatepedia, called for the university to better promote conversations about climate change solutions, provide better education about mitigation and speed up zero-emissions efforts.
“Climate action is essential for the health and safety of people all around the world,” Lum said. “It is an issue of social justice, public health and economics that needs to be addressed and integrated into public policies.”
A group of youths and some adults gathered on Laguna’s Main Beach at 7:30 a.m. to join in the protest. They held signs reading “There is no Planet B” and “Be nice to your mother (Earth)!”
Roger Gloss, 73, deputy chairman of the Orange County chapter of the Climate Reality Project, said about 50 people showed up in Laguna. He said it’s important to see how much power a young person’s voice can have.
“If adults have failed to listen to anybody in this country, they might listen to young people,” Gloss said.
In Huntington Beach, students bearing signs gathered at City Hall after a march to the pier. They had skipped morning classes to participate.
“What is school going to be if there was no planet to live on in 20 years?” said Marina High School senior Marcus Kolpin, 18.
Kolpin said he attended the rally because he was too young to vote in the 2018 election and that 2020 is too long to wait.
“We want to be heard,” he said. “It’s our planet too and we should have a say.”
School officials in Huntington Beach could not be reached for immediate comment.
Andrew Tankovich, a lecturer in UC Irvine’s English department, said he saw the UCI rally as a student-led response to a university symposium last month called “Fire and Ice: The Shifting Narrative of Climate Change.”
“I think the last two years have seen a remarkable upswing in student activism at this campus,” said Tankovich, who has worked at the university for 20 years. “It thrills me, frankly.”
Earl Zeimann, a teacher and social-studies department head at Marina High, agreed. He said the Youth Climate Strike was the second time in the past year that he has seen students protesting — the last time was the 2018 March for Our Lives to advocate increased gun control.
“They seem to be waking up to the fact that it’s their future,” said Zeimann, who noticed about 10 absences from his classes Friday. “I think they fear that that future’s not going to be so good if they don’t start becoming more active.”