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No Planet B: LA Youth Take on Climate Change

Photos by Kiera Kevany

On September 20th, over 4 million people participated in a strike across the world, united in determination to spread awareness of climate change and global warming. The demonstration, inspired by 16 year old Greta Thunberg, calls for nations to declare the world in climate emergency. “I want you to panic,” says Thunberg. “Our house is on fire.” While urging for panic, the millions of protestors calmly left their homes, schools, and workplaces to march peaceful demonstrations in their cities. 

Here in Los Angeles, thousands of LAUSD students walked out and met other protestors at Pershing Square in downtown LA. Gathered on the corner of Hill and 5th, I met with fellow high school and college students, professors and researchers, climate activists, and indigenous youths and leaders, all vying for action. Parents brought their children with them, some barely old enough to have a voice, but holding signs and smiling nonetheless. My friends and I had made signs to join the students lined the streets and sidewalks, carrying their posters with statements regarding climate change and even drawings. Some were humorous, and some eye-opening, highlighting what needed to be said. “There is no planet B,” many signs read. “The climate is changing. Why aren’t we?”

My ears rang through choruses of unending chants and the live band playing in the middle of the street that quickly collected a large crowd, while a generous family served free beans and rice from the back of their truck. A young woman taught my friends and I a song as an alternative to the chanting, telling us that even though there were less than ten of us, our combined voices would be loud enough. Some people gathered to watch us as we repeated the lyrics after her, and I felt like I had become a part of a small choir.

People climbed atop traffic lights to display their posters.

We lined up on the street, ready to march with our signs; a peaceful army. Two girls from a different high school had taken initiative along with the volunteers as they led chants and informed the crowd of the direction of the march. Side by side, signs in hand, we began to march through the streets of downtown, chanting at the top of our lungs: “Hey hey ho ho, climate change has got to go!” “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” Cars, stuck in traffic, waved and honked at us in support. I shared the brightest smiles and whoops with complete strangers, many with their phones out to record the event. I  marched alongside youths and leaders chanted and banged a drum. A man playing a bagpipe, and a group of men in their twenties played various percussion instruments. Even Calum Worthy, a Disney channel star from the show Austin and Ally came out to show his support, taking pictures with fans.

The rhythm of protest brought us to grand park, outside the Los Angeles City Hall. My feet were aching and my throat was sore, but the sight of hundreds of people gathered in the grass and on the steps in front of city hall, and being able to join them, was all worth it. I spotted more of my friends in the middle of the crowded protestors, sitting on the steps, smiling and waving while we anticipated the arrival of Mayor Eric Garcetti. We waited and waited, but eventually were joined by Mayor Garcetti as he announced the formation of the Mayor’s Youth Council on Climate Action, a collection of 17 high school and college students who will help drive the City’s strategy and policies to confront the climate crisis. The Los Angeles Police Department, whose officers had been closely monitoring the march and stood outside the doors of city hall, recalls there being “no reported arrests or complaints.”

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