Education

SLO County students walk out of class to join global climate action strike

SLO County students walk out of class to rally for the environment

More than 100 students in downtown San Luis Obispo, California, joined the Youth Climate Strike movement to rally for the environment. The protest aimed to address the impacts due to climate change.
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More than 100 students in downtown San Luis Obispo, California, joined the Youth Climate Strike movement to rally for the environment. The protest aimed to address the impacts due to climate change.

San Luis Obispo High School student Clea Wendt weighed the options of staying in class Friday or joining a worldwide movement to stop climate change. The planet was more important, she concluded.

Wendt, a senior, was a featured speaker at a Youth Climate Strike rally in front of the San Luis Obispo courthouse of more than 100 students from Cal Poly, Cuesta College, Mission Prep, San Luis Obispo High School and Arroyo Grande High School.

They joined in a global chorus of student protesters Friday in more than 100 countries saying that “world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis,” according to the Youth Climate Strike website.

“The planet is not dying, we are killing it, and we are estimated to have less than 15 years to reverse this process,” Wendt said during the rally. “This issue is not a matter of political parties or varying ideals.”

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Cal Poly student Brandon O’Rourke speaks to the crowd at a Youth Climate Strike rally in San Luis Obispo on Friday, March 15, 2019. Students from Cal Poly, Cuesta College and local high schools walked out of class to rally for climate action. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

At the San Luis Obispo rally, students activists spoke out on a number of issues, including supporting the Green New Deal, increasing recycling and reducing gas emissions from vehicles and opposing oil drilling in areas such as Cat Canyon Oil Field in Santa Maria.

Students sang and chanted at cars driving by, and hoisted signs with messages such as “Save the Trees,” “Climate Justice Now,” “Make the Earth Green Again” and “Why are Kids the Only Ones Behaving Like Adults?”

“This entire week, I have been conflicted with whether or not I would attend today’s rally, making the powerful statement to demand change at the expense of my presence in class,” Wendt said. “I then contemplated what my life will be like 10 years from now. Would I still be stressing over the 70 minutes of Economics notes I missed? Or would I remember the time that I fought for a cause that I care about?”

Miles away, about 200 students at Morro Bay High School walked out of class to lobby for action on climate change, and Templeton High School students participated in a rally at lunch.

The climate strike movement was started by a 16-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who opted to not attend school to urge change after fires and heat waves in Sweden. Thunberg has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

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Tara Hale of Cal Poly finishes a sign in front of the County Government Center in San Luis Obispo on Friday, March 15, 2019. Students from Cal Poly, Cuesta College and local high schools walked out of class to rally for climate action. David Middlecamp dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

But President Donald Trump has lambasted the Green New Deal and other environmental platforms as a threat to industry and the economy.

“I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane rights, of ‘Let’s hop a train to California,’ of you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!” Trump told supporters gathered at a large rally in El Paso, Texas, in February. “It would shut down American energy.”

The Green New Deal, co-sponsored by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and set forth an “economic bill of rights” — including single-payer healthcare, a guaranteed job at a living wage and free college education.

On Friday, Cal Poly student Kaiyana Aldrich, an earth science major, came directly from a final to the San Luis Obispo rally to make her voice heard. Aldrich said corporate profits shouldn’t be the reason to ignore the devastating effects of climate change.

“Big power, greed and big money influence keeps me up at night,” Aldrich said. “The voice of the people is the only power we have left.”

Students who participated in Friday’s rally will be part of continued efforts to the oppose the Plains All American Pipeline proposal and plans to ramp up drilling at Cat Canyon, said Carmen Bouquin, a Cuesta student organizer.

Plains All American Pipeline is proposing to rebuild a 124-mile oil pipeline across the Central Coast of California. The pipeline would bring back offshore drilling that stopped after the Refugio State Beach spill near Santa Barbara.

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.

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