Hundreds of SLO County students join national rally for climate change action

Students across San Luis Obispo County on Friday joined young people around the world in a day of protest to push for global action to combat climate change.

Groups of students opted not to attend class in Paso Robles, Atascadero and Templeton and at Cal Poly as part of a local version of the Global Climate Strike organized by SLO County Youth for Environmental Action, the Sierra Club’s Santa Lucia chapter, Climate Reality SLO and various school groups.

The international protests were inspired by a series of “Fridays for Future” strikes that Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, has been using to draw attention to climate change inaction.

Thunberg rallied on Friday with tens of thousands of young people in New York, calling the day of demonstrations “such a victory,” according to an Associated Press report.

Locally, strikers supported county and statewide efforts to move toward sustainable energy sources, said Carmen Bouquin, a 20-year-old Cuesta College student and Sierra Club member.

Climate Strike038
Paso Robles High School students, from left, Suzy Cano, 15, Brisa Estrada, 16, Nayeli Portillo, 16, and Jackie Delgado, 16, hold signs calling for action on climate change as part of the Global Climate Strike. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

The protesters called for Gov. Gavin Newsom to phase out fossil fuel production across California. They also want the county Board of Supervisors to take advantage of a program that allows local governments to pool electricity purchasing power and choose the source of electricity.

“We need a just transition off of fossil fuels,” Bouquin said. “Community Choice Energy gives us the opportunities to invest 100% in renewable energy, and it gives customers a choice of where we get energy from.”

‘We want to take a stand’

At least three rallies took place around the county. About 100 Paso Robles students and supporters met at Downtown City Park from 9 a.m. to noon.

Atascadero and Templeton students rallied from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Sunken Gardens, and Cal Poly students gathered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Dexter Lawn.

Ysabel Wulfing, a 17-year-old senior at Paso Robles High School, helped organize students in the Activists’ Coalition for Tomorrow (ACT) club to rally downtown.

“There are people that are affected by the hurricanes and floods and fires,” she said. “We wanted to be able to speak for them, because those people are in a really, really tough situation. And it’s because of the carbon emissions that are happening, and we want to take a stand against that.”

Wulfing said her experiences studying the natural world and collecting data in Joshua Tree National Park through the high school’s Field Studies Collaborative program piqued her interest in environmental activism. She said Thunberg’s work also inspired her to get more involved in the movement against climate change.

At the school district level, Wulfing wants to push for more eco-friendly materials — for example, by switching from plastic to biodegradable cafeteria utensils or from plastic water bottles to aluminum.

She said the Friday strike and rally went “way better than we expected.”

“It was so incredible to see all these people come together for one cause,” Wulfing said.

Geoffrey Land, a high school teacher and ACT club adviser, attended the rally to supervise and support the students. Land said he hasn’t seen Paso Robles students organize this kind of event during his time as an educator.

“As a government teacher, I’m always encouraged when students begin paying attention to the issues and engaging in the issues,” he said.

A San Luis Obispo Global Climate Strike rally will be held on Friday, Sept. 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. in front of the County Courthouse on Monterey Street. For more information, visit the Facebook event page at facebook.com/events/422295308404856/.

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing, North County communities and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She became a staff writer in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. Lindsey is a native Californian raised in the Midwest and earned degrees from DePaul and Northwestern universities.
Monica Vaughan reports on health, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo County, oil and wildlife at The Tribune. She previously covered crime and justice in the Sacramento Valley, is a graduate of the University of Oregon journalism school and is a sixth-generation Californian. Have an idea for a story? Email: mvaughan@thetribunenews.com