Elyanna Calle, a 17-year-old who lives in Lacey, takes the bus instead of cars as much as possible. She’s a vegan, forgoing meat, dairy and eggs because raising animals for food is energy-intensive and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
This Friday, she’s taking another step to confront the climate crisis. She’ll help lead a youth climate strike on the steps of the Washington state capitol in Olympia to get the message across to politicians that climate change needs to be treated as a national emergency.
“I’m hoping that politicians and adults of all ages who tend to not listen to youth see that this event was put on by youth and led by youth and we’re powerful and we’re not going to stay complacent,” she said. “We’re not taking no for an answer.”
Calle is one of many young people inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist from Sweden who began weekly strikes last year to demand action from government leaders on climate change. Young people in places such as Bellingham, Kirkland, Seattle, Tacoma and Wenatchee also are planning rallies and marches Friday.
They’ve been getting ready by making signs that say things like “This is an emergency — act like it” and “Youth won’t stand down.” Some are taking the entire day off of school. Others will walk out, in spite of school admonishments that their absences will be marked unexcused.
In Olympia, Calle said they’ll write letters to lawmakers urging them to pass meaningful legislation. She wants leaders to understand that adopting more environmentally sustainable policies doesn’t have to jeopardize the economy.
There also will be a voter registration drive so young people know they can continue to take action, even after the strike ends, by exercising their right to vote, Calle said.
For Grace Lambert, a 17-year-old from Mill Creek, this is the culmination of months of work. She is one of the leaders of U.S. Youth Climate Strikes in Washington state.
Lambert said she, like many of her peers, wonders about her future if leaders do not do enough to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
“The climate crisis is a really scary thing to think about. And a lot of my generation, myself included, deals with climate anxiety, which can be really hard,” Lambert said. “So I really hope the youth of the world take away some hope that things are going to get better for us.”
Lambert will be participating in the Seattle climate strike that begins at 9 a.m. at Cal Anderson Park. It may draw as many as 4,000 people, she said. The event will include street theater, games, art and then a march to Seattle City Hall.
In Tacoma, young people plan to meet at People’s Park at 2 p.m. on Friday. They’ll hear from speakers about the climate crisis and steps individuals can take, said Lisa Grimm, one of the organizers. After that, they’ll walk to Tacoma City Hall.
Grimm, 21, is a student at the University of Puget Sound. She said she’s “frustrated by the climate delayism in this country.”
But she’s hopeful that collective action could turn the tide.
“By striking, organizing, getting people to vote for candidates who will stand with the people rather than the billionaires of the fossil fuel industry, and calling on leaders to make structural and institutional changes, everyone is able to greatly influence the state of our climate,” Grimm said in an email.