Extreme climate change advocacy

Fed up with the lack of attention toward climate change, students around the world skipped school and took their homemade posters to the streets in September to participate in the Global Climate Strikes. It is understandable that they are frustrated, and granted, the world, environmentally, is not the same as it was decades ago. However, students must realize that striking can only do so much, and if they want change, the best way is to figure out how they can improve their communities and branch out.

The recent movement started in August 2018 when 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg decided to skip school on Fridays and protest outside of the Swedish Parliament with a sign in Swedish that translated to “School strike for the climate.” Since then, there have been international strikes, which received widespread media coverage during the 2019 United States Climate Action Summit.

It is inspiring to see students take a stand on something that affects them and everyone else, like how Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors led the “March For Our Lives” protest. But one thing to keep in mind is that teenagers are still kids, and many kids do not like attending school.

A handful of them do know what is happening with the climate crisis and are genuinely concerned about where the planet is headed. Yet, some are only protesting because they simply want to skip school. If a school allows students to attend the climate strikes, the students who want to skip school will say they are striking, but instead, they might be sitting at home playing video games or binge-watching Netflix. What student would say no to that?

Some schools, like Townsend Harris High School in New York City, have encouraged its students to cut classes to go strike and even cancelled classes so those strikers would not face any form of punishment. This is crazy—schools should not allow their students to skip school to strike.

Instead of skipping school and wasting the money set aside for educational programs, students should try to make environmental changes to their schools like inventing new, practical products that can be used there or even starting a class or club about environmental science. Diamond Bar High School has done all of the above in the forms of the Advanced Placement Environmental Science course, the annual “Your World” projects created by the APES students and the club Planet Arboretum, which educates its members about global warming and other environmental issues but also discusses possible solutions that can combat these problems.

If students feel this is not enough, they can still strike—just not during a school day. “March For Our Lives,” for example, was held on a Saturday. Students can still protest without missing school, and their attendance records won’t negatively affect them in the future.

All in all, climate change is an issue that does need to be addressed, but there are other ways students can still make an impact. They can make small changes in their schools and slowly branch out to their households and communities. People can’t go from Point A to Point C in one giant leap—they must take baby steps to get there.