On Saturday, September 18th, from 10 AM - 12 PM, the student-led Long Beach Green Schools Campaign led the Long Beach Youth Climate Rally, a family-friendly event designed to garner community support for the adoption of a 100% Clean Renewable Energy Resolution at Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD).
The Saturday’s Climate Rally was attended by 100 participants, including LBUSD Board Members Megan Kerr and Doug Otto, LBUSD Environmental Sustainability Program Specialist, Kristy Freund-McFeggan, Councilmember Al Austin, and representatives from the office of councilmembers Rex Richardson, Suzie Price, and Mary Zendejas. The Poly Jazz Band opened the rally, along with the Poly Cheer team. Student leaders Diana Michaelson, Hamid Torabzadeh, Dia Rubio, and Kaaya Batra, began by sharing their experience of working with the campaign, the goals of the initiative, and a progress update.
The crowd then heard from Fatima Iqbal-Zubair, who is currently running for District 64 in the California Assembly. Ms. Iqbal-Zubair focused on the importance of transitioning the school district off of fossil fuels, discussing the importance of having school boards listen to their constituents and holding elected officials accountable. “The truth is, we don’t have to live like this. We can be change-makers, we can say no, this is enough, and we can talk about a just transition,” said Fatima Iqbal-Zubair. Ms. Zubair also expressed that “The time is now! The time is now to transition away from fossil fuels through a green economy! The time is now to stand with the next generation who are doing the right thing! If we care about our future, if we care about doing the right thing, the time is not tomorrow, it’s not a week from now, a month from now, the time is now!”
The rally then heard from Ruthann Heis, a freshman attending Long Beach Polytechnic High School. Ruthann discussed her personal experience with climate change, especially living in West Long Beach, which experiences the nation’s most dangerous ozone pollution levels. Ms. Heis expressed memories of having to walk her classmates to the office while they had trouble breathing and could no longer walk themselves. “I also experienced how bad the air quality was, often we couldn’t have recess, were advised to stay inside. The air was unhealthy for us to breathe,” stated Ms. Heis.
Calum Worthy, an actor, producer, director, writer, and co-founder of the international Green School Campaign, also spoke at the event, expressing his support for the student-led movement. Mr. Worthy expressed that “most generations want to change the world, this generation wants to save the world.”
Simon Aron, a youth climate activist who co-founded the international Green Schools Campaign and currently volunteers at the LA Youth Sunrise Movement, also spoke at the rally. Mr. Aron explained that attending this rally made him sad, explaining that “we shouldn’t have to be here. We shouldn’t have to do this, but we know that in order to hold our elected leaders accountable, in order to win renewable energy and a liveable future at Long Beach Unified School District, we have to be here.”
Attendees then heard from Nikita Burger, a senior at Milikan High School and member of the Long Beach Green Schools Campaign. “We as a community must do better if we want to better the world. In order to make it last, initiative must be taken at both an individual and administrative level,” said Mr. Burger.
Patricia Chen, a facilitator of the Green Team at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach and co-organizer of Long Beach 350, touched on the social injustice aspect of climate change, stating “we are looking at our collective home becoming a much less hospitable place, not only for the limited diversity of plant and animal species that we share our home with, but also for all kinds of people. It will be really devastating for people, primarily people of color, that don’t have as many resources to deal with climate change.” In an effort to show that transitioning off of fossil fuels is possible for LBUSD, Ms. Chen explained that the UC system and CSULB have already committed to clean energy and “it absolutely follows that LBUSD should be next.”
Rohan Reddy, an 11th grader at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, then discussed the importance of transitioning off of fossil fuels for his health. Rohan has suffered from asthma since he was 6 months old, and discussed how he has to take medicine for his condition every single day. As an avid musician, Mr. Reddy also explained that often while playing his saxophone, he “is interrupted by fits of uncontrollable coughing.”
Elliot Gonzales, a community organizer working for the Long Beach Sunrise Movement and Sierra Club, then spoke to the crowd. As an intern for District 1 Councilwoman Mary Zendejas, Mr. Gonzales explained that our campaign has the council member’s full support. Elliot concluded his speech by mentioning that together, we can “show this world that we can create a much better life, a much better world, other than the world, the direction that we are going down right now.”
Attendees then heard from Herb Mendelsohn from Permacity Solar Company. Mr. Mendelsohn entertained the crowd with some interesting facts, including that enough sunlight, hits the earth every minute to power the earth for a year. Herb, who has been working on LAUSD’s pilot program to transition the school district off of fossil fuels, expressed that “if LAUSD can say we’re going to need clean energy… certainly Long Beach Unified School District can too.”
The speaker portion of the rally was concluded by Diana Michaelson, the president and founder of the Long Beach Green Schools Campaign. Diana thanked the Board Members Kerr and Otto for attending the rally and showing support for the movement.
The attendees of the event then marched down Orange Avenue, holding signs that read “Fight Climate Change”, “Solar 4 LBUSD”, “Clean Energy Now,” “Kids Need Clean Energy,” etc.
On behalf of the entire Long Beach Green Schools Campaign, we would like to thank everyone that attended the Long Beach Youth Climate Rally!