by Dylan Lee and Darioush Mostoufi
On Friday, September 24th, members of the Bay Area Students Activists chapter at our school (BAStA-WSP) led middle school and high school students of Waldorf School of the Peninsula (WSP) in the Mountain View campus to walk out of their classes to protest inaction by political leaders on climate change. Started in Sweden five years ago by a 15 year old girl as a one-person strike, the movement has spread across Europe and the globe. Last Friday was a major event for the students at WSP who joined the movement, with a coordinated international strike across the world.
Around the globe, youth have spearheaded the movement for climate change action, driven by increasing frustration with a lack of action from leaders and compelled by the fear that their generation may not have a certain future on the planet.
Climate change has become an issue of increasing concern for teens and young people worldwide, and at WSP, things are no different. Faced with uneasiness about the future of the planet, many anxious WSP students joined the strike this year calling upon leaders locally and nationally to take action against climate change, and are making individual efforts in their own lives to combat the issue. WSP students marched and chanted along on Rengstorff Ave to nearby community park where they picked up trash and cleaned up the park area.
Last week’s global climate strike —over 1,300 had been scheduled—was centered on what organizers with Fridays for Future frame as “intersectional climate justice,” pointing to an interplay between the climate emergency and other crises such as wealth inequality and racism.
“The historical victories of collective action have proven the need for the youth to stand united with the multisectoral, intergenerational struggle for a better future for all; a future where people and planet are prioritized,” organizers wrote. An event description put emphasis on the “Most Affected Peoples and Areas,” or MAPA, a group that’s “experiencing the worst impacts of the climate crisis and are unable to adapt to it”—a situation blamed on “the elite of the Global North who have caused the destruction of the lands of MAPA through colonialism, imperialism, systemic injustices, and their wanton greed, which ultimately caused the warming of the planet.”
The negative effects of climate change are expected to have a greater impact on lower-income communities, according to a federal report released in 2018. Additionally, these specifically in the United States, are made up primarily by minorities. The American Psychological Association reported that 39% of African-American and 33% of Latinx adolescents live in poverty, while this rate is at 14% for White and Asian adolescents.
There is a broad, major diversity in poverty and wealth within a country. So even in a developing nation, there will be places that are very wealthy and places that are poor. Except those that are poor in development settings will be much poorer than those that are poor in the United States. With climate change, the people that are going to be affected the most are those that rely on natural resources. For example, a farmer in California would be subject to greater impacts from a flood or fire caused by the drought.
There is no question that these strikers are motivated and that their actions are indicative of a growing segment of the population that sees climate change as a major threat. However, the question of the day is not how wonderful it is that these strikes are happening, but how effective they will actually be in changing politicians’ minds? The unfortunate truth is that the answer, at least in the United States, is likely not very much. Outlets like Fox News have vilified the Green New Deal for many, both inside and outside the government, and Republican and even conservative Democratic lawmakers are unlikely to change their minds anytime soon, regardless of how large the protests may be. Filibusters and other bureaucratic maneuvers by these politicians mean that climate legislation has a minuscule chance of getting signed into law if politics remain in their current state.
While it may seem disheartening to hear that the strikes that students have so passionately participated in had minimal effect, this should not be a point of dejection for climate activists. Instead, this should be a wake-up call. The reason that governments of all shapes and sizes are not addressing climate change right now is that they don’t think that its impacts will ever affect them and future politicians can deal with the effects down the line. If we show them that we are willing to sacrifice more to save our planet, then a short term incentive like staying in power will finally make them address global warming. Just because things look bleak right now doesn’t mean they have to stay that way, and with the commitment students have to saving our planet right now, change is not just possible, but guaranteed.
In the past, WSP students have pushed for wider-reaching climate action by speaking to government officials or attending climate strikes, and many continue to make adjustments to their lifestyles in an effort to do their part to protect the environment. In addition to making changes to their lifestyles in consideration of the planet, several students have attended climate strikes or protests for climate change action for several years now. Although younger people globally seem to be taking climate change more seriously than older generations, staff and faculty members at WSP have also voiced concerns about climate change, and some have also made efforts to become more environmentally friendly. While they have felt the need to take action because of their concern about climate change, some have also voiced hope and appreciation for the initiative of BAStA-WSP to lead the protest as a whole school to voice everyone’s concerns about climate change.