Continue the climate activism by voting

Getting to the polls is an essential follow-up for local youth who joined the strike

The author, a Chico resident and retired Butte College instructor, is a writer and editor.

While some remain in pathetic denial of abrupt climate disruption, an increasing number do not. This was evident Sept. 20 at Chico City Plaza.

Crowds of people here and around the world that day followed the example of 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. While some walked out of jobs, others walked out of schools. Locally, students showed up from Chico State, Chico High and Inspire School of Arts & Sciences.

Passionate and inspiring student leaders delivered intelligent and rousing speeches. It may be too late to avoid dramatic negative effects of climate disruption, but these kids at least made the effort to mitigate such effects by sending a loud and clear message to politicians.

Those who have condescendingly claimed these students just wanted a day off from school are sadly out of touch with young people. Smart, savvy, dedicated, informed: These attributes apply to Chico’s teens and 20-somethings who were on the plaza that day. They understand the science of climate disruption, as well as the uncertainty of their futures. They know the unfolding climate catastrophe is, for humans, unprecedented.

An acquaintance told me her daughter walked out from her school and joined the protest, only to learn later she’d been given an unexcused absence. Really, schools? You couldn’t turn that day into a teachable moment? Are administrators so out of touch with the scientific evidence of global mass extinction that they felt attendance—which translates into money—was more important?

I admire and applaud the students who showed up that day, and I have something to say to them: While it’s vital you continue your climate activism, it’s also necessary you educate your teen and 20-something peers that voting is not optional. Get your peers registered to vote and to the polls every Election Day. The young people of free societies must push aside apathy and participate. Every young person’s vote is critical.