Nueva Students Walk Out for Climate Justice
he 50-odd Nuevans have been swallowed by the crowds—and so has the street. Demonstrators young and old spill off the sidewalk, brandishing flags and protest signs— “When I said I wanted to die, I didn’t mean like this,” proclaims one in bold black marker—and shouting call and response chants. “The oceans are rising and so are we” soars above the crowd as it surges past Third Street, the air thrumming with shared purpose and the shining bit of hope that comes with solidarity.
The Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strike is part of a larger demonstration that took place from Sept. 20 to 27. This global “week of action”—inspired by the movement led by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg and organized by the Youth Climate Strike Coalition—was planned to coincide with the UN Climate Action Summit. The ultimate goal of the movement is to “demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis,” according to its website.
The week of action intends to advance that goal through a combination of intersectional, intergenerational teach-ins, walkouts, strikes, and other non-violent demonstrations.
“A walkout sends the message that…[climate change is] a matter of importance and magnitude,” said Daniel Arad ‘21, one of the student organizers of the Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strike. “Walking out from school and other subsequent activities is saying ‘we know our education is important, we understand the stake it has in out future, but honestly, this impacts our future more than half a day of school.’”
In the words of Sian Bareket ‘21, another of the strike’s organizers, walkouts “create disruption of the system,” making them crucial in the push for public acknowledgement of the climate crisis.
“A lot of people have been saying that lobbying is a more effective strategy, but the strike has a dual goal: both to effect policy
I think it’s important to encourage people to actually take action because there is a line between feeling the threat and feeling it so much that you just become lethargic and don’t do anything anyways and I think that, in some places and in some parts of the movement, that has happened.”
change and to create awareness,” Arad said. “Lobbying is a highly effective tool but it requires a lot of people and it’s hard to recruit those people to lobbying because lobbying is inherently you call, you meet, you call, you meet, and eventually you get something; it’s not the most romantic, and so, while it certainly has a lot of success it doesn’t work on its own because it lacks the potential for outreach that a strike has.”
Creating public and political awareness is one of the main goals of the strike, along with pushing for more concrete change through local policies. The main policy goals of the Silicon Valley march, which began at the San Jose-Diridon Caltrain station and ended on the steps of San Jose City Hall, are twofold: firstly, to convince San Jose to adopt new, climate-friendly policies regarding public transit funding, infrastructure legislation, and building electrification; and secondly, to push
San Jose to endorse the imposition of a state-wide carbon dividend meant to decrease fossil fuel emissions.
Beyond the legislative goals, the organizers hope to see long-term change in people’s attitudes on the crisis and the impacts of climate action as a whole.
“We want to provide optimism. We actually can solve climate change, there are things that we can do, and it’s not as hopeless as many people seem to think it is,” Bareket said.
“If we think of it as a problem with no solution, it lends itself to the idea that we shouldn’t worry about it because the earth its doomed anyways, we just fix the symptoms and cross our fingers and see what comes,” Arad added.
It’s crucial to have at least one voice during the strike saying ‘this is important, as a teenager and as a student: I’m one of you and I believe this is important.
“I think it’s important to encourage people to actually take action because there is a line between feeling the threat and feeling it so much that you just become lethargic and don’t do anything anyways and I think that, in some places and in some parts of the movement, that has happened.”
The organizers believe that success in the climate change movement depends on people’s ability to push past the pull of inaction and to believe in their own ability to effect change.
“The issue is big, and…frustrating, at times, to work on; the impact is very hard to see because it’s not about changing what’s broken, it’s about avoiding the worst of the consequences of something that has happened,” Arad said. “I think it takes hubris to get involved in a movement like this because you have to believe that you can make a difference.”
Written by Grace Holmes