Following up on a global protest held in September to demand more be done by people in power about the existential threat posed by climate change, local students from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday plan to renew demands for action during a demonstration at Pasadena City Hall.

“It’s scary and it feels like nothing can be done, but I think we have to do something and try,” Ozzy Simpson, co-president of Sequoyah School’s student council and one of the students leading the second Pasadena Climate Strike, said Monday.

“It’s time for us to show Pasadena politicians that we’re serious when we ask them to treat the climate crisis as an emergency and to stand with students to fight for a Green New Deal,” he wrote in a separate email. “We will not stop striking until governments take swift action to combat the climate crisis we face.”

In addition, students will be asking City Council members and candidates to turn away donations of more than $200 from businesses in the fossil fuel industry, and turn down contributions from oil industry executives.

Further, students are demanding that council members support a local Green New Deal, and demonstrate “respect of indigenous lands, environmental justice, protection of biodiversity, and sustainable agriculture.”

Although they received little attention from mainstream news outlets over the Thanksgiving holiday, on Black Friday an estimated 2 million people around the world called for more action on climate change in the form of protests and demonstrations, according to Time magazine. In fact, there were climate change demonstrations in more than 2,300 cities in 152 countries, the magazine reported. Climate activists told Time that more than 80 climate strikes were happening in the US alone.

Climate Ambition

During Friday’s planned climate strike in Pasadena, demonstration leaders said they will be collecting signatures for a petition outlining the demands that they plan to deliver to City Council members during their next meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 100 S. Garfield Ave., Pasadena.

Much like the last protest on Sept. 20, this demonstration is not only at City Hall but also timed around a UN conference on climate change. Only this time the meeting, which began Monday, was not in New York, but in Madrid, Spain.

At the Sept. 23 UN climate and youth summits in Manhattan, 65 world leaders set out to pump new urgency into the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. President Trump pulled the US out of the agreement in June 2017. But, notwithstanding the possibility of impeachment, that unilateral action by the president will not be official until Trump’s current term in office formally ends.

That gathering also had hopeful results: “Subnational states such as California committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, while 70 countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020 or have started the process of doing so,” according to a statement issued by the UN.

“Over 100 business leaders delivered concrete actions to align with the Paris accord targets, and speed up the transition to a green economy, including asset-owners holding over $2 trillion in assets and leading companies with combined values also over $2 trillion. Many countries and over 100 cities — including many of the world’s largest –- announced significant and concrete new steps to combat the climate crisis,” according to the statement.

The Pasadena demonstrations in September were part of the largest youth-led climate mobilization in US history, with over 650,000 people in the US among 7 million worldwide striking across more than 1,300 events. Local students were part of an estimated 500 people who protested in Pasadena.

But while all that helps, it’s still not enough, not by a long shot, according to another UN report issued in September.

“The good news is that momentum has been building since the adoption of the Paris agreement. Since then, more and more key actors are aligning their plans, policies and projections with the agreement,” states the UN Global Outlook Report 2019. However, “At the same time, the impacts of climate change have been growing; often with terrifying results, ranging from wildfires, droughts, flooding, and hurricanes to sea-level rise, ocean acidification to the melting of the permafrost.”

The Paris accords, states the report, provided greater clarity on the magnitude of the threats we face, and sent “an unequivocal message” that “a path exists to (a maximum temperature rise of) 1.5° (Celsius), but the window for achieving it is declining rapidly. Furthermore, we must reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“The bottom line,” states the report by the UN, “is that while momentum exists, we need much more climate ambition.

“There is simply no time to waste. Climate change is fast outpacing us and needs an urgent response by all segments of society,” the report warns.

‘Imminent Reality’

Some local students are anxious to take up the challenge.

“Climate change is a frightening, imminent reality which we are all facing, and as students, even global citizens, it is imperative that we stand together and fight for the future we want to see,”  Julian Suh-Toma, co-president of Sequoyah’s student council, said in a statement issued shortly before the first climate strike in September.

The only local politician to make a public statement at that time was Councilman Tyron Hampton, who said he recently switched from Republican to Democrat. Hampton also said he has stopped driving his pickup and now has an electric car.

“It’s important the city does all it can and we do all we can to protect the environment,” Hampton said at the time.

Pasadena, it seems, has always been at the forefront of environmentally conscious planning and policy making. Along with outlawing plastic straws, Styrofoam containers and plastic bags, Pasadena is also a leader in the area of Green, or LEED housing, or buildings that meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in the Green Building Rating System.

In addition, the city has its own environmental charter, which requires the city to “cultivate superior environmental standards that will provide for sustainable municipal development.”

In addition, “the city recognizes that growth and opportunity cannot be conducted at the expense of environmental protection and enhancement, and that growth and environmental stewardship are intimately related.

“The city believes that the implementation of an environmental ethic need not interfere with economic development, and that practicing such environmental ethics can ultimately be expected to enhance economic affairs and provide for responsible, farsighted development.

“The city believes that the protection of the urban and natural environments is a social responsibility and a fundamental obligation of a democratic government, and that an ecologically impoverished and polluted environment adversely impacts human health.

“The city is striving to become a model for environmental excellence and a prevailing force in environmental protection. To accomplish these goals, the city shall establish policies that will incorporate environmental responsibility into its daily management of urban and industrial growth, education, energy and water use, air quality, transportation, waste reduction, economic development, and open space and natural habitats.”

Of course, we all can do better, but by the looks of things, the city will do just that when it comes to expanding its ecological consciousness.

For more on the city’s environmental policy, visit http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/pdf/green_report.pdf

But since September, no other council members or candidates in the March 3 election have voiced an opinion about climate change or the students’ demands.

The Sequoyah students are part of the Youth Climate Strike Coalition, coordinated by Future Coalition, which includes organizations such as Earth Guardians, Earth Uprising, Fridays for Future USA, Extinction Rebellion-Youth, International Indigenous Youth Council, Sunrise Movement, US Youth Climate Strike, and Zero Hour.

The Climate Strike is a multigenerational and intersectional movement, with youth-led organizations leading national organizing efforts with support from an adult coalition that includes organizations such as Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Greenfaith, Hip Hop Caucus, NRDC, SEIU, and March On.

“We are in the midst of the sixth great extinction,” said Milo Knell, a member of the Sequoyah student committee planning Friday’s strike. “200 species of plants, insects, birds, and mammals go extinct every day. This is 1,000 times greater than the resting rate of nature. And if we don’t act soon, we may soon become just one more tragic species on this list.”

By Tuesday, Dec. 3, Simpson had received 116 RSVPs. “I’m hoping for 200 and I’m going to push for more than that if we can,” he said.

Should these and other efforts fail to reverse the current course, and the worst case scenario is ultimately realized, “It’s probably going to be worse for people who are not privileged,” Simpson observed. “We saw what happened when we went to war over oil. Now we will be going to war over water and food. … If we don’t take action and say we won’t be able to do anything, no matter what, it will be worse if we don’t try.” n