By: Savannah Dewberry and Gisele Gosset
Thousands of young people took to the streets of San Francisco on Friday, Sept. 20 to make their voices heard on the issue of climate change. The march, which was organized by “Youth Vs. Apocalypse,” a group of youth climate justice activists, started in front of the Federal Building on 7th Street, which is where the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, is located. The march ended in Embarcadero Plaza, where Bay Area community members spoke on stage about the urgency of climate change.
Other climate strikes also took place all over the world at 11 a.m. local time and signaled the start of Global Climate Change Week, which aims to foster more conversation about and increase education around the topic of climate action and solutions to tackle it. The kick-off strike occurred the day before the three-day 2019 United Nations (UN) Climate Summit in New York City.
“There are decision makers assembling to work on this issue, so it’s especially important for the UN, government, businesses, to hear the urgency that youth feel,” said environmental science professor Stephanie Siehr during a phone call interview. Siehr was at the strike with 10 of her students from her “Climate Change: Science and Policy” class.
Siehr emphasized the importance of young people, like the members of Youth Vs. Apocalypse, participating in conversations surrounding the climate crisis.
“I am so inspired by my students — their insights and their messages.”Stephanie Siehr
The worldwide series of marches were organized by sixteen-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who became the face of the youth movement against climate change in 2018 with her “Skolstrejk för klimatet,” or “school strike for climate,” movement.
“I decided to attend the climate strike because climate change is the most pressing issue of our time, and it’s really scary,” freshman Willa Gibson said. She is not alone in this concern — a recent poll found that 57% of teenagers also feared rising temperatures and its effect on the world.
“I thought it was so inspiring and amazing to see so many young people really passionate and knowledgeable about climate justice,” Gibson said.
The march stopped at eight locations around the Financial District, including Amazon Go, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These corporations and agencies were a focus for marchers because of their controversial uses of power and influence in relation to climate change. At each of these stops, marchers shouted chants that pertained to each institution along the route.
These chants echoed through the streets and included refrains such as, “Stop denying, our Earth is dying,” “The people united will never be divided,” and “Hey, ho, climate change has got to go.”
At each stop, protestors used chalk to draw pictures and phrases, like “Save the Earth,” on the ground to make sure their efforts were not only heard, but seen as well. A few protestors even took to climbing up lamp posts or Muni buses.
“I really liked seeing people be so angry against the corporations that the march stopped at, because corporations can seem so powerful, but the power of the people is real,” Gibson said. “History has shown that people rallying together, especially youth, is the best way for average people to make a big change.”
Freshman Madison Creekbaum said she thinks the University can do more to be environmentally conscious. “If USF cut down paper use, [for example, through] receipts and mail, we could do a lot,” Creekbaum said. She also suggested the USF community use reusable bags and water bottles to bring visual awareness to the movement.
“I would like to see USF enhance students’ skills to take action, and see the University do even more,” Siehr said. Although USF met its goal of carbon neutrality in 2019, she added that the University can become committed to combating climate change through other means, such as ending the use of fossil fuels.
One way USF promotes environmental conscientiousness is through the Office of Sustainability. The University places focus on reducing emissions and promoting recycling efforts along with encouraging composting over the use of landfills, according to the University’s Climate Plan. USF also uses renewable energy sources, such as solar, to power its facilities when possible.