Bay Area Joins Worldwide Youth Climate Strike

Protesters march in San Francisco (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

3:24 p.m. It's as yet unclear just how many kids and adults participated in the youth climate strike today. The Guardian says "millions of people from Sydney to Manila, Dhaka to London and New York" joined in. The Sydney Morning Herald reports more than 300,000 schoolchildren and college students took to the streets in Australia, alone. There were 270,000 in Berlin, says The Financial Times.  Organizers in London estimated more than 100,000, according to The New York Times. In New York, Mayor Bill De Blasio tweeted 60,000 and counting. Greta Thunberg, who addressed a crowd in Battery Park, put the figure considerably higher.

Here in the Bay Area, Bay City News is reporting "tens of thousands" joined the demonstrations, from Cupertino, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Richmond, Fremont, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and dozens of other communities. So far, no violent incidents or arrests have been reported.

New York excused students from school in order to participate; most Bay Area school systems did not. Despite that distinct lack of permission, the kids filling Market Street were curb to curb, says our reporter Kevin Stark. They targeted, among other stops on the protest route, the offices of Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein; Amazon and PG&E; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

What they had on their minds: Earth is warming, with the 10 hottest years on record all having occurred since 1998. Exposure to extreme heat is increasing, hurricanes and flooding are more intense, and wildfires are increasingly burning out of control. The world's scientists say it's only going to get worse if we don't substantially reduce the planet-warming gases released by the burning of fossil fuels.

Since we've been talking to young people about this issue, their message has been fairly consistent: We are children, and you are adults. And on this issue, you have really let us down.

"People aren't listening to the scientists and what they're trying to tell you about the Earth," said Annabelle, 10 years old, in front of PG&E today.

"There’s just so many things we can see happening, and it’s so, kind of terrifying to see how so many of the people in power really don’t believe it and are denying it," said Ariel Skolnick, 15, who walked out of Berkeley High School.

"We are fighting for our future, and we're not going to let people sit around and destroy our planet," said 12-year-old Samara Ixchelnuo-Pelayo.

Kevin Stark followed these young protesters around all day, and we asked him what it felt like out there.

"Most of the day, the students are all leading this thing," Stark said. "And they're kind of fierce. They're angry, and they're frustrated, but they feel like they have this sense of power. Market Street is completely shut down; from Seventh to First streets, it's full of students.

"Then I go to the Ferry Building, and I see this line of two or three dozen students getting soft-serve. And it just kind of landed for me: They're out there pushing for us, adults, to do something, and making this huge statement. But here they are, getting ice cream, Because these are kids."

More climate actions are planned next week.

1:36 p.m. More climate-related news from California today. California and 22 other states filed suit to prevent the Trump administration from revoking California's authority to set more stringent standards on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles than those put in place by the federal government.

1:28 p.m. Here's Associated Press on the day's events, around the world:

A wave of climate change protests swept the globe Friday, with hundreds of thousands of young people sending a message to leaders headed for a U.N. summit: The warming world can't wait for action. Marches, rallies and demonstrations were held from Canberra to Kabul and Cape Town to New York.

The "Global Climate Strike" events ranged from a gathering of about two dozen activists in Seoul using LED flashlights to send Morse code messages calling for action to rescue the earth to Australia demonstrations that organizers estimated were the country's largest protests since the Iraq War began in 2003. In New York, where public schools excused students with parental permission, tens of thousands of mostly young people rallied and marched through lower Manhattan. And in Paris, teenagers and kids as young as 10 traded classrooms for the streets. Marie-Lou Sahai, 15, skipped school because "the only way to make people listen is to protest."

The protests were partly inspired by the activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has staged weekly "Fridays for Future" demonstrations for a year, urging world leaders to step up efforts against climate change. "It's such a victory," Thunberg told The Associated Press in an interview in New York. "I would never have predicted or believed that this was going to happen, and so fast — and only in 15 months."

12:48 p.m. Next stop on the protest schedule was PG&E.

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KQED is temporarily PG&E's next door neighbor, so our intrepid reporter Molly Peterson took the elevator downstairs to interview kids who were making their displeasure at the adult world loudly known. She spoke with Wren, 9, and Annabelle, 10. Annabelle carried a sign that said "Why should I go to school if you won't listen to the educated?"

She explained it this way: "People aren't listening to the scientists and what they're trying to tell you about the earth," she said.

Leo, 12, said he was advocating for the Green New Deal. He said his class had been discussing climate change and the need for renewable energy. Is there anyone doing something on the issue that he admires? "Greta Thunberg. I think she's really important and all the things she's done."

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12:30 p.m. The protest hit Amazon Go's office in San Francisco ...

12:07 p.m. Some climate news out of Sacramento today. In an effort to align California’s $700 million dollar-plus pension investment portfolio with its climate action policy, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order directing the Department of Finance to create a climate-driven investment plan. The order aims to shift the state’s investments toward carbon-neutral and clean energy technologies.

On the heels of the federal government’s efforts this week to strip California’s authority over state emissions standards, Newsom also signed two bills aimed to reduce tailpipe pollution from trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles.

Here’s what Newsom said in a statement:

“In the face of the White House’s inaction on climate change, California is stepping up and leading the way. Our state is proof that you can reach some of the strongest climate goals in the world while also achieving record economic growth. How we meet this moment will define our state – and country – for decades to come, just as the willemergence of the internet defined our economy over the past few decades. We have to get ahead of this and align our state investments, our purchasing power and our transportation and housing policies to be ready to meet this moment head-on."

11:40 a.m.

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7th and Market in San Francisco (Steph Lister/KQED)

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11:09 a.m.

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10:54 a.m. Thousands of students have taken over Market street, KQED's Kevin Stark reports, and Muni buses are lined up and sitting idle. Lots of youth “facilitators” and “coordinators” are leading contingents from Bay Area middle and high schools.

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10:28 a.m. Berkeley High walkout

Some 400 Berkeley High School students were expected to walk out today. This morning, a group gathered in the park across school while a brass band played. The contingent was headed into San Francisco via BART for the main rally.

Sophomore Ariel Skolnick, 15, held a trio of signs, including one that read "Stop Denying Our Earth is Dying."

"There’s just so many things we can see happening, and it’s so, kind of terrifying to see how so many of the people in power really don’t believe it and are denying it," she said. "And it’s up to us, the youth, to try to make as much of a change as we can and try to get our voices out there as much as possible.

"I want them to know that we are the future and we’re doing what we can to make sure that our future is going to be able to happen."

10:10 a.m. MUNI problems in San Francisco

Unrelated to the climate strike, MUNI went down this morning due to a PG&E power outage. Some service has returned, the SFMTA reports:

9:48 a.m. Art Build at UC Berkeley

Lindsay Puddicombe and her 19-month-old daughter Maude at UC Berkeley ( Kate Wolffe/KQED)

Students, faculty and families are gathered at UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza to paint cardboard signs as part of an Art Build sponsored by Students for Climate Action, a coalition of university groups on campus, KQED's Kate Wolffe reports.

While kids and adults painted away, climate group gave “teach ins” to educate the crowd about how to build a zero waste sustainable future.

Lindsay Puddicombe was there to paint signs with her 19-month-old daughter. One action they've taken to reduce their carbon footprint is to forgo eating meat or meat byproducts. “We try to do our part as best ...  we can. You know, it’s her future."

9:33 a.m. On the protest itinerary

PG&E, which has made all kinds of news for not being prepared, is getting prepared -- the company is an official destination on today's protest itinerary.

Outside PG&E headquarters in San Francisco. (Bianca Hernandez/KQED)

Other protests are planned at Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office, Amazon, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among other places. Here is the official march route in San Francisco.

9:15 a.m. On Twitter, the climate strike hashtag is #climatestrike. The first thing that came up for us was this TED Talk from Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who ignited the global climate action youth movement by walking out of school a little over a year ago as a protest against inaction on climate change by the Swedish government.

8:49 a.m.

  • Med students want meeting with Pelosi
  • 12-year-old: we're not going to let people sit around and destroy our planet

KQED's Kevin Stark reports there are roughly 40 to 50 doctors, medical students and activists -- all wearing white lab coats and carrying signs -- that have entered the federal building in San Francisco to try and speak with Nancy Pelosi. They're going through security, not forcing their way in.

Colin Baylen, 30, who attends UCSF, said the group wants Pelosi to know that "We need to take action now because this is a health emergency and it's going to impact all of our health."

Update 10:00 a.m. Monday, Sept. 23: The group, California Climate Health Now, met with Pelosi's staff to discuss the need to reduce emissions in order to protect public health, according to Ashley McClure, one of the group's organizers. The meeting was previously scheduled.

The group also met with staff members from both California senators and Representative Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. In an email, McClure said that the goal was "to share our grave concern for human health if climate change continues unabated."

"Our message to the electeds is that climate change is a medical emergency and needs to be framed as such in the American discourse," she said.

California Climate Health Now is coalition of medical doctors and health professionals. Altogether, 34 medical professionals participated Friday, including 24 physicians, 8 UCSF medical students, 1 UC Berkeley public health professor, and 1 UC Berkeley nurse practitioner.

Original post 9:45 a.m. Friday, Sept. 10:Outside the federal building, Stark also spoke with Samara Ixchelnuo-Pelayo, 12, who was taking off school today. "We are fighting for our future and we're not going to let people sit around and destroy our planet," she said.

Speaking of K-12 students, Bay Area school districts are not necessarily on board with them missing class today.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports San Francisco, Oakland and other districts are not excusing students.

"As a district we do not condone these walkouts and we asked our instructors to work the information into their curriculum if at all possible and talk about it with the students during the day," said a spokesperson for San Jose Unified School District.

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