“When the people rise up the power comes down,” was the chant heard throughout the front of the San Luis Obispo Courthouse, as over a thousand protestors gathered to rally together for climate change during the SLO Global Climate Strike.
Three local environmental organizations; SLO County Youth for Environmental Action, the Sunrise Movement and Sierra Club combined their forces to support the awareness of global warming and the need to move from fossil fuel consumption to 100% renewable energy.
A growing movement that has been on the rise globally for decades has recently gained momentum thanks in-part to 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has spoken in front of foreign leaders and is one of the influencers demanding immediate action and change to a more sustainable way of living.
People all over the world who are passionate about the environment and who want both the global and local leaders to wake up to the crisis are following suit by either walking out of their classes or protesting in the streets.
Cuesta College student and Sierra Club member Carmen Bouquin, 20, helped to organize the SLO Climate Strike. Bouquin said she’s doing her best to make a difference and bring awareness of climate change to the masses, an issue she feels is one of the most important issues of her generation.
“My generation is going to be the most impacted by climate change,” Bouquin said. “It’s the biggest issue of our time. This is going to affect my life and the life of my peers. It’s affecting our health, our water and basically everything that is surrounding us.”
Protestors around the world and within local communities participated in the global strikes. Students walked out of their classes to protest global warming. The students are rallying and demanding that local governments take action and come up with better solutions.
Over the years, California has seen a major impact of climate change, with longer and more extreme wildfires, extended drought seasons and record high temperatures. The students are putting pressure on local governments, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, to ban fossil fuels. For protestors like Bouquin, the planet is on a climate countdown and changes need to happen immediately.
“We need a just transition to 100% renewable power,” Bouquin said.
According to Bouquin, California organizations are putting pressure on local and government officials by making three demands. First, to stop fossil fuel investments. Second, to roll back limits for communities on fossil fuel extraction. And third, to stop existing permits for fossil fuel extraction.
For Bouquin, this is more than just a rally or protest, but a moment to make a difference by participating in a powerful global movement that is making a rippling effect throughout the world.
“I am super proud to be living in a moment with powerful leaders,” Bouquin said. “I know Black and Brown communities and indigenous leaders have been in the forefront of the movement since the beginning of civilization.”
97% of all climate scientists agree that the biggest threat to the world is humans. Climate scientists claim that if emissions are not curtailed within 12 years, irreversible and catastrophic effects could occur.
Bouquin isn’t the only one who feels this way. Cuesta College student Chance Coates was also at the protest to show support for the indigenous cultures who are fighting for climate change.
“We are going to make a change,” Coates said. “We are gonna come out fighting. That means that we are gonna come out in droves.”
Coate’s stressed how important it is for young people to come out and show solidarity throughout the community and globe. Coates attended the rally in hopes of bringing awareness of the amount of carbon emissions that are polluting the air, and feels that they are not being cut back drastically enough or as quickly.
“We’re not going to just sit back in the face of the undemocratic narcissism that the global financial leaders throughout the world are engaging in,” Coates said.
For Chance, there is power in people. Standing back and not making a difference is not an option. He feels that political leaders are gambling with the livelihood of all human beings because of personal gain and corporate greed.
Getting those leaders to listen is another issue, and that is why students and protestors are coming out in droves into the streets to protest and be heard.
One local leader, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, is a 15 year climate activist who is supporting the movement. Harmon calls it the defining issue of our time.
Harmon made a promise to her family years ago as a young mother to do everything she can to fight climate change in order to provide her family a long, healthy and sustainable life.
“I think it is great that the youth are stepping up and out of the vacuum that the adults have left,” Harmon said. “We owe the youth a huge apology for not stepping up as a generation.”
Harmon referred to climate activist Greta Thunberg in regards to intergenerational theft and intergenerational betrayal on the part of the elders in the global community. That elders have not created a fair and sustainable world for younger generations to live in.
Harmon is proud of her city for being progressive, and admits that the county has a long way to go. But Harmon knows the issue goes beyond political belief.
“Let’s be clear, this is not a political issue, this is an issue of physics and thermometers do not have political parties,” Harmon said. “What is great about this particular moment is that there is no reason not to do the right thing even if doing the right thing wasn’t your inclination in the first place.”
As for the climate change deniers, as they are called by Bouquin, there is no time to entertain debates as climate change is real. Too much time has been wasted and the time to act is now before irreversible effects begin to happen.
“We need to transition now, away from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” Bouquin said.
Documents investigated by the U.S. government, advisory boards and the fossil fuel industry have been aware of the effects of carbon dioxide emissions on the planet since 1970.
“Over 30 years ago studies showed that corporations like Exxon knew of the impact that fossil fuels would have on the environment and they did nothing to stop it,” Bouquin said. “The earth is not dying, it is being killed. And there are a select few who are doing this.”