Members of the Extinction Rebellion stand and watch the demonstrations on Sept. 20 in the Arcata Plaza. | Photo by Collin Slavey

Protesting Climate Change

Students strike to advocate for climate action
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AHS and HSU students strike to advocate for climate action

Video by James Wilde & Collin Slavey | Editing by Chelsea Wood

Anxious and irritated with the lack of governmental action against climate change, masses of young people and students from Arcata High School and Humboldt State University took to the streets surrounding the Arcata Plaza on Friday as part of the Global Climate Strike.

Inspired by the International Youth for Climate Action, the Humboldt Sunrise Movement in association with the Extinction Rebellion and students of AHS organized and executed the local school strike protesting climate change.

Students were excited to show how strong their voices could be when used in unison. Maddie Marriott, a member of Extinction Rebellion, said the organization was aimed at gathering people for peaceful protest and that is what they hoped to achieve.

“We dance, yell, sing and chant to show our energy,” Marriott said. “This shows we are cheerful and hopeful and happy in the face of this threat. It is rejuvenating and these friends are empowering. Now we have to wait and see if our voice is being heard.”

Marriott ended up agreeing to hold a sign that said “Protect Rainbow Ridge, our forests and our climate.” Ecological protection is one of the main goals of the movement, but Extinction Rebellion as a national organization demands governments tell the truth about climate change and act now to prevent species loss and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Vanessa Argonza, a Humboldt State student and member of the Extinction Rebellion, said speaking out and advocating for action is important. Change requires people to care and be passionate about an issue, while also realizing we can come together to create change.

“In moments of injustice you must speak out because if you do not, you are part of the problem,” Argonza said. “The youth is well aware and willing to be part of the change because it affects them. We can come together and make change. You just have to be aware of your footprint and educate yourself before you speak out.”

The protest did run into some technical issues as it spilled out into the Arcata Plaza. Unfortunately, the strike organizers failed to bring a speaker system that was loud enough for all of the attendees to hear, causing the message to fall flat. Joanne McGarry, a local supporter of the Environmental Advocacy and self-prescribed ‘gadfly’ suggested better planning in the future for a more impactful demonstration.

Jene L. McCovey delivers a powerful, emotional speech about the threats to the Earth faces. | Photo by Collin Slavey

“I am more than happy to let young people lead, they just have to lead well,” McGarry said. “Having music is important when you’re walking into the plaza, during the demonstration and as you exit the plaza. Having a speaker that is loud enough for the entire crowd to hear is unbelievably important.”

The Sunrise movement was originally created as a youth advocacy group to show support for the Green New Deal, a stimulus package proposed by politician and activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in February of this year. The Sunrise Movement intends to work within ‘the system’ while actively changing the system, in pursuit of environmental and social justice through nonviolent and direct action. They are building an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.

Tribal elder Jene L. McCovey began the rally in the plaza with a song called “Feeling Sorry for My Womenfolk,” a somber tune that spoke of hate and woe. She went on to tell stories and sing more songs to give purpose to the actions of the demonstrators.

“The stumps are really big- that is all we have left of the old forest,” McCovey said. “Clear cutters, defilers, denude the land down to the earth and they burn it. Wherever you find your trials, be that healer. Be that person that walks with people in that good way. Be the water protectors.”

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