For many of us attending the downtown Napa Climate Strike yesterday, the event was energizing if also poignant. Such enthusiasm! I could hear cheering and chanting from several blocks away as I parked and walked down Main Street to Veterans Park, the beginning of the march. We’re students, united, we’ll never be divided! We’re students, united, we’ll never be divided! As new groups of students arrived carrying signs and chanting, they were greeted with raucous cheers and clapping. So much excitement! So much optimism. That’s where the poignancy comes in.
We older folks stood in the back, in the shade. A Napa Register reporter approached me: Why are you here? I gestured toward the whooping, joyous, crowd of kids, ages from kindergarten through high school, and said, They need us. They need our support because they are facing a huge burden: climate change. And the actions of many of our governing officials do not reflect this.
Yes, we are in a climate emergency.
As I was telling my son Casey and daughter-in-law Melissa about the march last evening, Casey showed me the most recent National Geographic magazine, subject: Extinction. On the front cover was a man kneeling over the last white rhino on the planet, dead. Opening the magazine, I came upon a picture of a giraffe, the largest living ruminant on the earth, laying on its side, shot. What would ever motivate someone to kill such a beautiful animal? “This issue is too sad to show Wesley and Sabien,” Casey said, and then added, “Yet I have so much respect for National Geographic reporting as they are.”
When is a child able to take in the severity of our situation? At what age can they handle knowing the facts? At what age will we adults take in the facts that foreshadow doom for human life on earth– and act? We have yet to have a county Climate Action Plan, although it’s been in the works for ten plus years. Our Board of Supervisors allowed prevailing industries to modify it. Actions to protect our water and our environment have been neutralized by these same industries. Witness Measure C, which was heavily opposed by the wine industry.
Yesterday as I watched classroom after classroom arrive, chills ran up and down my arms as I listened to the shrieking and cheering of children welcoming each group: the little ones, the teenagers. My heart hurt to listen to their “yes we can” attitude. Yes, they are optimistic. Yes, that is good, because it will carry them a distance. But the truth is, I have some idea of what a distance there is to go if we make it at all.
But we need to have their backs. Why are we letting them carry an adult load? We all have to act as if this is a climate emergency– because it is.