Hundreds of people hit the streets in Jefferson and Clallam counties, joining millions worldwide in the Global Climate Strike to raise awareness of climate change and to demand action.
About 200 Port Townsend High School students, supported by some 400 adults, and another 200 Chimacum High School students walked out of class for 10 to 20 minutes Friday.
About 300 attended a Port Angeles rally organized by Olympic Climate Action (OCA) that evening.
OCA plans a Sequim demonstration at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Sequim Avenue and Washington Street.
All of the rallies were part of the Global Climate Strike, which is a multi-national movement that began Friday and will continue though next Friday, Sept. 27.
The U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit will begin Monday at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The U.N. Youth Climate Action Summit preceded it on Saturday.
The Port Angeles Climate Strike march started at City Pier, with marchers — many carrying signs and placards — wound around several blocks of downtown, and convened at The Gateway transit center.
The marchers’ path was through the Arts and Draughts Festival on Laurel Street, where live music halted as the procession passed.
Christy Cox, 33, of Port Angeles, who helped organize Friday’s strike, said that society needed to understand the peril of a rapidly warming planet.
“We’re here to raise awareness about the climate crisis and strike in solidarity with people across the globe,” she said. “I think it’s important because activism makes change.”
Cox said climate deniers no longer have a place in the social discourse and that a solution to the problem needed to start on a grassroots level.
“We’d like to have some local policy change and for others to maybe take notice that this is important, and to do some personal research about their personal impact on the climate crisis,” she said.
As he waited for the march to begin, 11-year-old Ewan Mordecai-Smith, a sixth-grade student at Roosevelt School in Port Angeles, held a sign warning of the destruction of the planet, a world that he would soon inherit.
He said he was concerned about the Earth reaching a tipping point.
“It’s not going well,” Ewan said.
“The Earth is dying and we need to do something about it.”
At the Port Townsend High School rally, about 200 students gathered at the school’s baseball field and more than 400 members of the public watched. The public was kept outside the fence line — off school property — as the school has a closed campus. Superintendent Jon Polm said officials had safety concerns.
“The public who came to the high school campus were very cooperative and understood that the students would be rallying independently,” Polm wrote via email.
“Most of the public watched from the fence line and were supportive of the students throughout the rally.”
The rally was completely organized by the students. They informed Principal Carrie Ehrhardt in advance, and were overseen by Ehrhardt and Polm. The students will not face disciplinary actions as a result of participating, Polm said.
“Although the school district tries to remain neutral on political issues, we also believe strongly that students do not shed their civil rights when they walk through the school house doors,” Polm said.
“Consequently, we are hesitant to be punitive if students make an effort to share their plans and cooperate with requests from school administration.”
The students marched in a line together down the hill from the school onto the field, chanting “What do we want? Action. When do we want it? Now.”
The crowd outside the fence chanted along.
Once all the students were on the field they arranged themselves in a large circle and students took turns speaking about what they can do to lower their impact on the environment.
Student Stella Jorgensen talked about how students can lesson their carbon footprint by eating local, organic food.
“Shop locally and organically,” Jorgensen said. “The less time food spends on a plane, the better. As consumers we have the power to change how we view food in this world.”
Jorgenson made a call to everyone to stand together to make a difference in the conversation of climate change.
“Change starts with the individual,” Jorgenson said. “In this case, it starts with us.
“We’re in a climate crisis. This is not the time for excuses.”
Kate Dean, chair of the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners was in the crowd supporting the students from the sidelines.
“I have two kids here today and my friends and I were saying what a lousy hand they were dealt,” Dean said.
“My generation wasn’t handed the best set of cards either, but we can’t keep blaming the previous generations.”
Dean was proud of the students for standing up for this issue and calling for change. She said that the students wanted the adults to be on the sideline to let students run the event.
One group outside the fence was the North Olympic Orca Pod. Members are known to show up to events such as this dressed in orca costumes to bring attention to the endangered Southern Resident orcas.
“I think it was wonderful,” said Terry Dubeau, a member of the pod.
“It looked to me that we had more people on the outside than the inside … It’s sad that the fence separated us, but our hearts are with them.”
Dubeau quoted Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg about the importance of these events.
“‘Please don’t tell people we’re inspiring. Do something.’ I don’t care if we inspire,” Dubeau said. “We want people to do something.”
Chimacum School District had a close to 200 students participate in a 10-minute walk out, middle school Principal David Carthum wrote via email.
“All students that attended were well behaved and went in as soon as it was finished,” Carthum said.
“I am proud of our kids.”
The Global Climate Strike has a second day of action planned for this coming Friday.
Event set today
An “Earthcare Celebration” with the Interfaith Community of Clallam County is set for 4 p.m. today.
People of all faiths are invited to gather for ceremony and prayer in the meadow at Webster’s Woods, Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd.
From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, a potluck and dialogue about the upcoming International Earth Strike on Friday is planned at the Clallam Bay Library, 16990 state Highway 112.
From 5 p.m to 8 p.m. Wednesday, a potluck and dialogue about the Earth Strike is set at the Forks Library, 171 Forks Ave.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, a ukulele flash mob for climate is set at the Conrad Dyar Fountain at First and Laurel streets in Port Angeles to the playing of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” Email [email protected] for more information and a video tutorial.
From noon to 2 p.m. this coming Saturday will be a community potluck at Tillicum Park, 236 N. Blackberry Ave., Forks.
More information on the Global Climate Strike can be found at https://globalclimatestrike.net/.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].
Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at [email protected].