Students from several west county high schools and junior highs left class on Friday to participate in the Global Youth Climate Strike in Sebastopol’s downtown plaza, joining students from more than 100 countries around the globe in protesting what they see as political inaction on climate change.

Around 120 students from Analy, El Molino, Orchard View, Summerfield and Sunridge came to the rally organized by Youth vs. the Apocalypse, the internship arm of 350 Bay Area. (The 350 stands for the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide—measured in parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere. We are currently at 410 ppm.)

The four organizers of the Sebastopol action were Anabelle Lampson and Ani Fowler of Orchard View School, Eleanor Jaffe of Analy and Ula Kamastrow of Summerfield School.

The four took turns exhorting the enthusiastic crowd to become involved in the political process on this issue — suggesting they speak before their city councils and school boards — as well as make personal lifestyle choices that support climate health. Then they invited other students onto the stage to have their say.

Fowler said that it’s critical for youth to become involved on the issue of climate change.

“It’s our future that we’re going to be living in, and the choices that are made being right now will impact us in the future so we need to take a stand and do what is right for our own futures,” she said.

The organizers are focusing their efforts educating youth about the danger of climate change and on holding elected officials feet to the fire on the issue.

“Today, around the world, is proof that youth are listening and care about what you are doing so you need to respond to us and care about our future the way we do,” said Jaffe.

Jaffe and friends were thrilled by the number of students who left school to participate in the event.

“We heard about the international strike, and we wanted to plan it for our local community to bring all the schools together and make a powerful statement,” said Kamastrow. “We didn’t know there were going to be so many people,” she said, glancing around at the crowd. “It’s fantastic.”

“The youth are standing internationally to protect our future and the future of this beautiful planet,” fellow organizer Anabelle Lampson said. “We’re so grateful for all the energy and power that’s here today.”

The organizers weren’t the only ones impressed by the turnout and the tenor of the crowd.

Sebastopol engineer Steve Pierce, who’s been involved in energy issues since college, said, “I’ve never seen the level of organization and enthusiasm around this issue that I saw here today.”

Sebastopol City Councilmember Patrick Slayter, there in his biking gear, agreed. “The turnout is amazing, and their message is on-point: youth need to get involved.”

Local zero waste activist Sunny Galbraith, a science teacher at Orchard View, said this event was just the beginning.

“Several of my students helped organize this,” she said, noting they’re working with other local organizations to plan a climate action night at the JC, discussing climate legislation at the state level, and a Green New Deal town hall in May.

Ula Kamastrow said she and her friends are like emissaries from the future. “We’re the next generation of voters and farmers and politicians and workers,” she said. “We deserve a clean and sustainable world.”

This article was originally published online on March 15, 2019.

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