More than 1,000 people gather on Sproul Plaza for climate strike

Ben Klein/Staff

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Over a thousand students, alumni, residents and community members packed Sproul Plaza on Friday to rally for immediate action on climate change at UC Berkeley’s local climate strike.

The climate strikes are a global phenomenon spanning over 150 countries which began Friday and will conclude Sept. 27. The rally at UC Berkeley had an estimated 1,200 to 1,300 people in attendance, according to Dante Gonzales, an organizer of the strike and member of Students for Climate Action and the Student Environmental Resource Center.

Some attendees carried signs with questions written on them such as, “The climate is changing so why aren’t we?” while others carried posters in support of the Green New Deal. A banner reading “We are the Earth protecting itself” hung from the balcony of Sproul Hall. The rally congregated on Sproul Plaza before traveling to join San Francisco’s strike.

“Talking about this movement and how many people … came out in our very first week, you know, I now think about the broader picture,” said Gonzales. “From this point on … I think there’s no way that we can stop.”

Sixteen-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who spearheaded organization of the strikes and has become a figurehead for the youth climate action movement, spoke to the U.S. Congress on Wednesday. She presented a 2018 special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, about a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in global average temperatures.

The report argued that in order to avoid the environmental repercussions that would accompany a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase, global carbon emissions must drop to net zero in fewer than 15 years. The state of California’s current climate action timeline provides for an 80 percent decrease in emissions over the next 31 years.

Prior to the climate strike, the ASUC passed a resolution in support of the strike at UC Berkeley.

The resolution, whose primary sponsor was ASUC Senator Sylvia Targ, extends support of the climate strike to “demand climate action in the form of our demands.”

“Last Friday’s climate strike was an incredible show of energy in favor of immediate climate action,” said Varsha Sarveshwar, the ASUC external affairs vice president, in an email. “I left the climate strike deeply inspired. Moving forward, I hope that UC Berkeley students as well as staff, faculty, and administrators can do our part to combat climate change on our own campus — and be a part of a broader national movement fighting for action.”

The ASUC’s list of demands surrounding climate action include the declaration of a state of emergency from state and national legislators for climate change, the urging of legislators to support the Green New Deal and the UC Board of Regents’ divestment from fossil fuels — something which the UC system recently announced at a regents meeting that it will pursue.

Friday’s rallies around the world have had a sizable youth presence. Along with UC Berkeley students, the campus’s rally was attended by many middle schoolers. The San Francisco rally was attended by members of the group Youth vs Apocalypse.

Many young activists at the San Francisco strike targeted political and corporate officials while marching through the city. Strikers in San Francisco gathered at the offices of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco — both of whom have faced criticism for their stances on the Green New Deal.

Last year, Pelosi’s office in Washington was flooded with members of the climate activism group Sunrise Movement in support of the Green New Deal. Many activists were arrested at the sit-in, and Pelosi has repeatedly expressed opposition to the Green New Deal.

In February, a recording of Feinstein arguing with young activists urging her to support the Green New Deal went viral. Feinstein faced broad criticism following the incident.

In a similar fissure between officials and activists, the San Francisco Democratic National Committee, or DNC, meeting in August drew controversy over the committee’s voting down of a climate-centered debate for Democratic presidential candidates. Sunrise Movement held rallies throughout the “meet the candidates” section of the meeting, and candidates Tim Ryan and Bernie Sanders advocated the party take a stronger stance on climate.

“We aren’t really the first priority on (policy-makers’) minds,” said Gonzales. “And so I think it is that continued striking, that continued organizing, that continued lobbying, on so many different fronts, to just keep that at the forefront of our policy, at the forefront of our general discourse and at the forefront of our organizing.”

Ben Klein is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BenKlein_dc‏.