“Our House is on Fire”: Global Climate Strikes go Local in Fight Against Fossil Fuels


(Photo courtesy of Aspen Real Life)

The Global Climate Strikes have started a movement around not only awareness about climate change, towards a demand for action. (Photo courtesy of Aspen Real Life).

Aryana Hadjimohammadi , Staff member

The city of Walnut Creek will host a climate rally and environmental action fair on Sept. 21 as part of the weeklong Global Climate Strikes happening at schools and workplaces later this month. Organizers hope the event draws scores of people to participate from across the East Bay.

“I realized that I need to do more and I need to be more active,” said Jackie Garcia Mann, an ecologist who is helping plan the Walnut Creek action, which is one of 40 events occurring in California throughout the week of Sept. 20-27. In terms of the climate crisis, “things are critically bad and accelerating.”

The Global Climate Strikes are a youth-led effort pushing for immediate, massive reductions in carbon emissions and a global transition away from fossil fuels toward 100 percent renewable energy. The strikes were started by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who last year left classes every Friday to sit outside Sweden’s Parliament in a “School strike for the climate”. Her passion and articulate leadership ignited a global movement, which saw 1.4 million students in more than 2,000 cities worldwide walk out of classes in March 2019.

Mann knew she wanted to get involved in the Global Climate Strikes happening this month, but saw there weren’t any events locally in the East Bay, only in San Francisco. When she began emailing organizations to see about creating an event, Mann discovered little to no awareness about the international strike.

“I went through all of these organizations that were supposed to be planning this event and nobody knew. Nobody had planned anything, nobody had information,” said Mann. She thought the strike in San Francisco wouldn’t be effective reaching her local community, so she took initiative and launched the event herself.

“You don’t get an opportunity to build relationships and community at the big event. We want people to know who their activists are in their own community—who is looking at what the refineries in our own county are doing,” she added.

Julia Foote, a community outreach coordinator with the nonprofit environmental group Sierra Club, is involved helping organize the strike in San Francisco. She said the climate strikes were necessary to bring about a change to the status quo.

“Our government isn’t working for us, they’re not listening to their constituents and we kind of need to step up and do something bigger to get someone to really take this (crisis)  seriously,” said Foote.

Foote said anyone can get involved in the movement—because the climate crisis affects literally everyone.

“It’s not just the environmental communities and the people who love nature who are showing up for this,” she said. “It’s regular everyday people disrupting the status quo because they recognize that this is a climate emergency and if we don’t act now, there are going to be really, really awful consequences.”

Emma Sonas, an environmental science major at Diablo Valley College, said she thought the climate strikes aren’t only fighting for an important cause, but they could also help the United States’ political standing in the world.

“I think it will be good for our relationships with other countries because many (partnerships) have become strained with this current administration,” said Sonas.

“It definitely doesn’t help that the supposed leader of our country doesn’t believe that (climate change) is an issue. Climate denial is not a trend across other countries in the world,” she said. “It’s so frustrating when you have all of these clear-tested facts supporting that the climate crisis is real, and then people just don’t care.”

Despite her uncertainty whether the strikes will have an impact on climate policy in the U.S., Sonas said it’s important to spread awareness about the crisis—and that people need to escalate the fight for the future of the planet. One week of climate activism won’t do it.

“I think this is kind of one of those things where one time isn’t enough. (We need) to continuing fighting,” she said.

Mann said everyone should be involved and strike for the climate in order to make politicians listen. “We’re not acting like there’s a crisis. We need to wake up the people who are concerned but not necessarily active, and get everybody out and involved,” she said.

Editor’s Note: For more information about participating in the Global Climate Strikes from Sept.20-27, visit https://globalclimatestrike.net/.