Students at Santa Barbara High School and City College led more than a thousand people in Santa Barbara in the first day of a week-long climate strike going on in more than 150 countries. “The government has been talking for years,” said SBCC’s Pulkita Jain, “and no one’s doing anything.” Greta Thunberg had taken it upon herself to change the political system, said Jain, who heads up the school’s Phi Theta Kappa society which organized the college side of the march, “and she’s only 16.”
On campus, the Biology Club had brought a pair of corn snakes named Linguini and Clementine to tables set up at the West Campus bridge. “They represent the species at risk,” said club co-president Sophie Cameron, as Dylan Anderson let Clementine wrap around his arm, exclaiming how this was making his day.
Other students gathered around said they felt the future was impossible to imagine. They were concerned they’d never have a chance at a master’s degree, that resources would be gone, whether they should take a gap year before missing out, and that there was no way back to normal. “The Earth will still be here, even if we’re not,” said Rebecca Adam, the Biology Club’s other co-president. “We need to save ourselves, and save ourselves fast.” Cameron added: “We may not have a normal future, not have kids, jobs. And birds? Yes, I’m very worried about birds.”
“Save the Birds” was among the chants the high schoolers shouted as they walked off campus and marched down State Street sidewalks to De la Guerra Plaza and Stearns Wharf and back again. A paper published in the journal Science on Thursday documented the loss of nearly 3 billion birds, or 29 percent, in North America since 1970. They were common species of birds that still number in the millions. But the losses were compared to the passenger pigeon, once the most abundant bird in North America — flocks were said to blacken the sky as they flew by in 1895 — whose estimated 136 million plummeted to zero in 1914.
The new study found that sparrows, warblers, finches, and blackbirds were among the hardest hit. Alarmingly, even thriving nonnative species may be unable to survive for long a speculated combination of loss of habitat, neonicotinoid poisoning, climate change, and even the household cat.
The students also chanted to save the snails and the whales, calling out that “Climate change has got to go” as they marched. Organizer Evan Sherman with the high school’s Green Club observed the day is being called a record-breaking climate mobilization, the biggest in history. “We’re inheriting a planet with a lot of issues,” he said, “climate change being one of them. We have a limited time to change things.” Sherman cited Greta Thunberg in saying only 10 to 11 years remain before global warming becomes irreversible.
As for what he’s doing personally, Sherman said he’s a vegetarian: “It’s the biggest way to minimize your personal impact, especially minimizing red meat. A lot of resources go into your hamburger,” he said. City College student Jonah Lavi said the same thing, while his friend Angel Ceballos responded, “Meat is good. We need to control the climate.” Another friend, Jesse Casey, opined that dropping Amazon shipments was the best thing you could do. “Sixty-four percent of packaging comes from Amazon,” he said. “Jeff Bezos is just filling homes with trash.”
Carpinteria’s climate strike goes on all day, starting early in the morning at Carpinteria and Linden avenues as kids walked to school. The small group of people received honks and waves of approval from people driving by. About 40 people came out during the morning, Jason Lesh of the Farm Cart said, including Holly Espinoza and her son. Espinoza is a software engineer in Ventura at Patagonia, which blacked out its website in favor of images of the young people whose futures are hit the hardest by climate change.
“The kids really liked the support they got,” Espinoza said. She wanted to show the kids that their voice mattered. “With the world we’re leaving them,” she said, “we have to show them to not be afraid to speak up, to put yourself out there. We’re taught to follow the rules, but sometimes you have to be able to question and protest peacefully.”
Next Friday, dozens of area groups will come together at De la Guerra Plaza around noon to culminate the week’s events. For more, go to climatestrikesb.org.