Inside high schools across the country, desks were empty, and students were nowhere to be seen. Instead, they were miles away, marching for the fate of their futures, their children’s future, and the fate of the entire world. On Friday, March 15th, thousands of students across America banded together to protest the climate inaction of the U.S. government.
That same day in Santa Barbara, students sat in classes, most were unaware of the nationwide marches entirely. A previous catalyst city for the beginning of environmental activism in America, Santa Barbara had turned cold. 50 years ago in 1969, citizens of our town were faced with one of the biggest oil spills of U.S. history destroying our ecosystem and climate. A year later, the first ever Earth Day was held in Santa Barbara, launching nation’s first widespread environmental movement. The organization Get Oil Out (or GOO!, for short) was formed one day after the spill and has been working for environmental protection across California ever since, still active and strong in the community today. Santa Barbara was made by this catastrophic event. Our small town took tragedy and used it to create something bigger than itself. So where did that passion go? Why, in this age of hurricanes being stronger than ever and entire cities falling subject to the rising seas, do we hesitate to speak up? To protest for our very lives and futures? In 2019, activists who decided to make change after the oil spill are late into their 70’s, still impassioned, but unable to live our future. What is the root of the lack of environmental activism, or activism in general? The truth is, I’ve barely met any students in Santa Barbara that find such issues important to them. The same goes for issues such as gun violence and the border wall crisis. Most students “don’t know enough about it” or don’t feel like they have the ability to make a difference. The truth is, we’re not all climate scientists. We don’t know everything about the issue, and that’s totally okay. The point is to talk about climate solutions and what legislative action we can encourage our government to take for our future. The point of protesting is the show the government that we’re fed up with their inaction, or rather backtracking as Trump did when deciding to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.
Students aren’t mad about the issue because they aren’t listening.
If you’re a student reading this article, I want you to know that even the smallest thing you do can make a difference. You can tell your friends, teachers, family members, and more about issues important to you to break the wall of fear. The more people hear about the issue, the most socially validated their ideas become. The truth is that your voice matters. You can be heard if you take the initiative to speak out for what you believe in.