Youth in revolt
On Friday, Sept. 20, students from the University of Nevada, Reno, as well as others from area K-12 schools joined demonstrators around the world who took part in the Global Youth Climate Strike. At its peak, approximately 150 students, some bussed in from as far away as Truckee, occupied the lawn and staircase in front of the Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center. People arrived at 9 a.m., displaying signs and chanting slogans demanding government and private sector action to address climate change.
“They were received with applause and shouts, and it was just a great moment because you just felt like we’re all in this together,” said Stallar Lufrano-Jardine, the main organizer for the event and a PhD candidate in environmental leadership at UNR. She is also the director of the school’s Environmental Action Team (EnAcT) Club.
The “strike” is named in part for 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who, beginning in 2018, refused to attend school for three weeks and instead sat outside of the Swedish parliament in protest of political indifference to the mounting threat of climate change. She then continued her protest every Friday, sharing her message on social media—where it quickly went viral—and setting the stage for the worldwide strike.
Lufrano-Jardine said that when she found out there was no official event scheduled for the day of the strike, she and her fellow club members decided to organize the UNR protest.
“I actually incorrectly assumed UNR was just doing something,” she said. “So, when I typed in my zip code [to the official Climate Strike website] to find what’s going on at UNR, there wasn’t anything there, and I realized I couldn’t sleep at night if I didn’t do it myself.”
A small contingent of students from Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village were among those who traveled the farthest to attend the UNR strike. “We’re all interested in sustainability, and we’re kind of more focused on how we can mix green business together, and still focus on meeting our needs such as food, constant water supply, clean air. Climate change mixes all of that into one problem,” said Zach Krahnke, an SNC student. “You’ve got to start local to go global.”
After the campus demonstration, strikers moved to a stage prepared in the City Plaza across from city hall, where approximately 700 demonstrators listened to speeches prepared by youth speakers and City Councilmember Naomi Duerr.
UNR and Reno joined over 4,000 demonstrations in 150 countries, according to globalclimatestrike.net, although the Washoe County School District issued a warning late last week that students who participated in the strike would be marked absent or tardy and would not be allowed to assemble on WCSD property. On Friday, Damonte Ranch High School banned five students from attending Homecoming Week activities for participating in the strike, although, according to the Reno Gazette Journal, that decision was later reversed.