Students across King County walked out of class on March 15 as part of a nationwide action to draw attention to climate change.
The walkout was organized by students and partner organizations and included students from schools in Bothell and Redmond and Seattle. Henry M. Jackson High School student Grace Lambert, 16, was the lead organizer for the youth climate strike in Seattle.
The state of the environment is especially important to her.
“This is something that’s going to affect the rest of my life. We have maybe 11 years to make changes to keep our environment from completely going off a cliff,” Lambert said. “The adults running the world aren’t doing what needs to be done. It’s really frustrating to be too young to vote and it makes us feel powerless.”
Lambert said when she heard no one in Washington leading a Youth Climate Strike, she had to be involved.
“I couldn’t believe no one else was leading one. Before I knew it, I was leading it,” she said. “The past six weeks have been crazy — but like good crazy.”
The Youth Climate Strike calls for the action of the Green New Deal, a halt in fossil fuel infrastructure projects, a declaration of a national emergency on climate change and compulsory comprehensive education. For more information of Youth Climate Strike’s demands, visit www.youthclimatestrikeus.org.
A rally at Seattle’s Cal Anderson park drew hundreds of students who assembled on the ball field to listen to speakers, including student activists and local politicians. Students gave speeches, recited poetry and made racial equity in the face of climate change a consistent theme.
Lydia Ringer, a high school student who has worked on both the Initiative 1631 and Initiative 1639 campaigns, was one of the speakers. Ringer said climate change will affect the people of class and working-class people more severely than others.
Ringer cited the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which has been without clean drinking water for nearly 2,000 days, saying examples like this will likely increase as the effects of climate change are felt more acutely.
“This is environmental racism,” Ringer said, a refrain she repeated as she pointed out racial disparities between how people of color are treated in comparison to others.
King County Executive Dow Constantine also addressed the crowd and touted his environmental policy, including moving the county’s transit toward greener technologies. Constantine also hammered a political line, urging the audience to support candidates who pushed climate policies and that rhetoric was not enough.
“It is about doing the hard work and the hard work includes electing a president who believes that climate change is the greatest threat to our country,” Constantine said.
In Redmond, a group of students marched out of their classes and down to city hall to meet with their city leaders. The group met with Mayor John Marchione and Councilmember Angela Birney to ask questions regarding the steps Redmond takes to make positive environmental change through policy.
Meghna Shankar, president of the student group Green Team, organized the Redmond-based walkout after reading about the other student walkouts going on in the region and the rest of the world. By getting the word out through social media like Instagram, Shankar was able to lead students down to the city hall for the Climate Strike event.
“I was inspired by the global student strikes going on in the world and by Greta Thunberg, who inspired everybody to do this,” Shankar said. “I believe legislators and world leaders are not prioritizing climate action as an immediate threat to our future. We need to show them we really believe this is important to us and they need to start listening.”
Marchione and Birney answered questions on reducing water usage, creating green business incentives, and spoke about the countywide effort to get cars off the road with the introduction of light rail and the expansion of metro bus services. Redmond High School student Arpit Ranasaria said he was inspired by the march and discussion to continue pursuing positive change.
“I’m really glad our community is one that is so active and in working toward climate change, but this has really inspired me to spend more time and be more active in trying to reach a larger audience both in our school and communities,” Ranasaria said. “I think a majority of us here will actually be voting in the next presidential election and we can vote in the midterms soon, it’s important we try making sure we are advocating for candidates that work toward this as well.”
Several students did see some resistance from their peers when spreading the word about the strike. Both Shankar and Ranasaira, as well as the rest of the Redmond students, said this hesitance from others has only driven their motivation to make a positive impact even further.
“I do wish that there were more people our age who held the same perspective of how important this is and have the same value in this. We are all here missing two classes for most of us, to me it’s pretty clear that’s a good priority,” Shankar said.
“The earth is our future and if we can’t protect that then there is no future from any other standpoint,” Ranasaria said.
For Lambert, she said she hopes because of the Youth Climate Strike, that youth will become more involved and be “inspired to take action.”