I was not involved with planning the Los Angeles Youth Climate Strike, but I walked at the front of the hundreds-strong group, leading the occasional chant, and staring down photographers’ lenses. The atmosphere was dynamic: the students were colorful and loud, flaunting their witty signs. It was powerful to be among these caring few. I say “few” because I was disappointed in Los Angeles. Look at Belgium, Prague, Quebec. These are cities a quarter of the size of Los Angeles but had thousands more students show up to their marches.
I was the only student from Harvard-Westlake to attend. Sure, I could have done a better job spreading the word about the strike, but I tried to do my part and none of my classmates cared. Even my teachers were not supportive. When I told them I would miss a day of school for the Climate Strike, I was met with frowns. All I heard was, “The AP is approaching, is this the best use of your time?” Yes, yes it is.
It frustrates me that coming from a school that is supposedly “politically active and engaged,” my engagement in such a universal issue was looked down upon. At school, we care about guns and abortions and feminism, rightly so; but the majority of my peers and teachers don’t seem to care about an issue that in time will effect absolutely every living thing on this planet. What got to me even more was, after posting a photo on instagram of the day, it had almost become my most liked photo within a few hours. The comment section was full of “proud of you!”, “Respect,” “MY President” and emojis galore, but none of the people who commented attended the demonstration.
How do we bridge this gap between facile social media comments and actual action by practicing what we preach?
I wish I had been met with enthusiasm from my teachers, not disappointment as if our efforts were nothing but a waste of time. I would have loved to have had more of my peers chanting with me, not just passively commenting on my posts.
Why is America so far behind other countries, especially those in Europe, in terms of environmental justice? We inhabit no greater a bubble than other students in first world countries do, yet we seem to lack resolve, perspective and selflessness. LA is a privileged city where most of us still have yet to experience first hand effects of climate change, but did we forget about last years’ fires and floods?
More students elsewhere seem to understand that although we might not be seeing the changes now, we must fight for positive change.
We do not own the world. We share it. We need to get out of our conceited, sheltered mindsets and act. You can get your history notes later from someone who’s not out changing the world’s course.