“It’s early morning in the Pacific. Soon the sun will rise on Friday the 20th of September 2019,” 16-yr old climate activist Greta Thunberg wrote on her Facebook page. “Good luck Australia, The Philippines, Japan and all the Pacific Island nations. You go first! Now lead the way! Happy striking!”
In the wake of the Sept. 20 global climate strike, which sought to fight the insidious nature of resignation and brought visibility and new language to the climate crusade, young people on Orcas Island are stepping up, setting goals and seeking accountability.
Arla Sutton, a senior at Orcas Island High School and climate strike organizer shared, “Right now we want to focus on plastics in businesses in town. The environmental club wants to make sure that plastic utensils are banned in our cafeteria. We just received a large donation to use over the next couple years to work on specifically getting rid of plastics in the cafeteria. It seems like a relatively small thing to do in the San Juan Islands. But everybody came together, 4 million across the world, which makes this feel a little less intense.”
OIHS senior Birdie Greening and strike co-organizer replies, “I definitely would like to see [Orcas Island] businesses take responsibility for what they’re selling. For example, the [Orcas Food] Co-op plastic containers in the to-go section are unnecessary.”
The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that climate change is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. As of Jan. 1, 2018, there are 12 years left to cut our global carbon dioxide emissions in half in order to have a 50 percent chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees Celsius global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels.
Current scientific calculations do not include non-linear tipping points as well as most unforeseen feedback loops like the powerful methane gas escaping from rapidly thawing arctic permafrost or already locked in warming hidden by toxic air pollution. The United States is the biggest carbon polluter in history as well as the world’s number one polluter of oil. The United States is also the only country in the world to signal strong intentions to leave the Paris Agreement because, according to President Trump, “it was a bad deal to the United States.”
Sam Sutton, an 8th grader at Orcas Island Middle School, knows the urgency of the facts.
“This is a chance to make my voice heard and to say what I know, and to say what everyone needs to know,” Sutton compelled peers and strangers from the stage on the Village Green. “What I ask of you is when you vote, in any election, think of me. Because I can’t vote for another five years and by then it will be too late.”