By The Watershed Project’s Albany High School EdSet team, and by Green Collar Corps team member Gabriela Suarez-Cruz and Outreach Coordinator Sara Gurdian
Climate change activist Greta Thunberg is making waves across the world. Her message of defiance against the inaction by world leaders and denial of the impacts of a changing climate has struck a chord with the youth around the world as well as those who contribute their talents to The Watershed Project. We feature their voices in this article.
Gabriela: I first learned about Greta while she was traveling from Sweden to the US. It surprised me because I read about how she was going to travel using zero to low carbon emission vehicles. Despite her youth, I can see that she has created a huge impact on young people because of the following she’s had on social media – an audience of 7.5M followers through Instagram and 2.75M on Twitter. (I’m part of her audience through Instagram). Her Fridays For Future has had millions of participants who strike every Friday to protest the lack of effective climate legislation on a governmental level. Although I can not travel all the way to her Fridays for Future strikes, I can still follow all her speeches and achievements and stay informed. In one of her Instagram pictures posted on September 23rd she wrote of our leaders, “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.”
On Friday, September 20th, The Watershed Project’s team of interns from Albany High responded to Greta Thunberg’s call to action and attended the Climate Strike in San Francisco and wrote about their experience.
Izzy: The climate strike was a really inspiring, empowering march in San Francisco that brought youth together from all over to strike for climate justice. At 9 am, we walked out of our morning class and took BART to Civic Center. We marched from the Federal Building to the Embarcadero, stopping by many problematic corporations like Chase, Black Rock, Bank of America, ICE, and PG&E. I was taken aback by how many people showed up and the amount of excitement for such an important cause. Our friend and Earth Team club vice president Gabby Wei took a vlog of our experience at the march: climate march vlog. It really made me feel inspired and ready for a future of fighting for our planet.
Nikki: Greta Thunberg has been skipping school to sit outside of the Swedish Parliament in protest of the lack of action taken to address the climate crisis. She is skipping school because she believes that there is no point to educate oneself for the future when that future may not exist. Her dedication and ambition inspired millions of people all over the world to take action as well. On Sept 20 thousands of Bay Area students and I participated in the school strike for climate justice. Participating in this march was a way to claim my voice and to show those in power that we do not accept this to be our future and that we need them to take action. Many students in the bay area have felt the effects of climate change and we know that if we continue to pretend that it doesn’t exist, it will only get worse.
Emma: I also attended the march on September 20th in San Francisco. Going to the march was definitely an empowering experience. Being surrounded by so many young activists made me realize that every person and small action matters. This has motivated me to pay an extra dollar for non-plastic packaged food and turn off the lights whenever they’re not necessary. I think a lot of people find it hard to be more green because climate change feels like a very distant issue. Attending climate strikes is a good way to become more aware of current climate change issues and realize that we must take action now. Overall, I had a very positive experience at the march and I think it had the perfect balance of intensity. Nothing was sugar coated, but no one left feeling anxious or worried either.
Gwen: Working with the Watershed Project has really inspired me to take action because planting trees and helping with other projects related to saving the planet gives me hope that our world will get better. EDSET is a program offered at Albany High School involving an internship every Friday that allows students to have some experience in a professional work space, and encourages students to intern at an environment-related organization to get youth more involved in helping our planet. At our internship, we learn a lot about the impact of nature on our climate and what we can do to help.
Chris: I run the Earth Team Club at Albany High, and the climate strike was our first club event of the year. I think it was a great start to the year because all of our members got to meet each other and become really good friends over the course of the protest, while also seeing other teens from all over the Bay Area standing with them to fight against climate change. From there, we were able to set a lot of goals for the year, which include projects to make our school more sustainable, political action for the 2020 election through canvassing and researching candidates, and volunteering with local organizations like The Watershed Project. Our most recent event was planting trees with The Watershed Project. Before the event, we played this video from Greta Thunberg about the importance of trees. I think it was a really informative video and made the importance of trees really clear, which motivated students to participate. Since the march our club members have been really energetic about all of our events and political action because they can see the scope of the problem and the impact that they can have.
Our Outreach Coordinator, Sara Gurdian, who has spearheaded our North Richmond tree planting project, reflects on our work in the community.
Sara: I am lucky enough to be part of a tree planting project at The Watershed Project that is trying to take a stab at reducing climate pollution in areas that have a history of being left out of the greater conversation, or are simply excluded when speaking about climate change. When we look at the statistics around the Bay Area, it is clear to see that many of our low-income families live in those excluded neighborhoods and have no other choice but to adapt to horrible conditions of industrial impact, like air pollution.
The community of focus for this project has been North Richmond because of its proximity to the Chevron refinery, wastewater treatment facility, and the heavily-trafficked Richmond Parkway. We are engaging residents in the process of creating a healthier environment through planting trees and by doing that, North Richmond residents are being invited to be part of the action in combating climate change. Over 30 North Richmond resident adoptees and 50 trees later, I am proud to say that North Richmond has a greater sense of resiliency and people are well aware of their community needs, with more trees being one of them. It has been amazing to witness the amount of interest of not only the residents from North Richmond, but residents from Richmond, San Pablo, Albany and Pinole as well, who all believe in the importance of planting more trees in our respective cities. At the end of the day, we need community members and stakeholders to step up and take action, even if it’s only one tree at a time.