Napa's students at global climate strike are leading a local and global movement.

Scores of Napa’s youth gathered in Veteran’s Park Friday to make it clear: they want their voices heard.

Participating in the worldwide student-run climate strike, the group chanted, among other things, “Students united will never be divided.”

Heard they were. Those cheers and chants echoed through downtown Napa on Friday afternoon as a crowd gathered to listen to speakers in the park before marching toward the Napa County Administration Building.

There were participants from a roster of Napa’s high schools – Vintage, Napa High, New Tech, Justin-Siena, and the Oxbow School – as well as students as young as kindergartners. Many held signs or had dressed for the occasion: some students from The Oxbow School wore T-shirts made specifically for the strike that read “Students for climate action.”

Renee Miller, the director of teaching and learning for the Blue Oak School, estimated that around 150 of her students, or “99 percent” of her student body, had chosen to come to the protest. The school hosts children from kindergarten up to eighth grade, Miller said, adding that Blue Oak is “very focused” on environmental issues.

“The youngest kids know we’re here to talk about the Earth. Our school-wide focus for the year is justice, so here we’re talking about environmental justice,” she said. “We do a lot of framing to help them understand what’s going on.”

Carla Magana, a 16-year-old junior at Vintage who helped organize Friday’s strike, said she’d left school after lunch and missed the last two classes of the day to attend. She estimated that, in total, 10 students from different high schools helped to organize the strike.

“Someone brought up the idea – let’s have a strike. In reality, that’s what creates action, and that’s what generations in the past have done to fight for whatever they thought was important,” Magana said, referencing the civil rights movements and Vietnam War protests. “We’re going to be the ones demanding that (the people) who can do something about it, do.”

The students weren’t alone: there was a visible age range of community members in attendance as well.

Patricia Damery, a board member for the local environmental group Napa Vision 2050 and a 25-year resident of Napa, attended the rally in solidarity of the students.

“I really feel it’s important that we support the youth, because they have a huge burden coming up (from climate change),” she said. “I think the climate emergency is the most important issue on our planet, and our officials are not acting that way.”

Kennedy Ervin, a 15-year-old sophomore at New Tech, also helped organize the strike. Local student organizers had been planning the strike for almost two months, she said, and had been posting about it on social media—a strategy to which she attributes the size of the crowd at the strike.

“I feel much lighter and just happier knowing that this is helping, and while this is a small step in the process toward a net-zero carbon economy, it’s still one of the steps,” Ervin said. She has been interested in environmental activism for the last four years, she added.

The strike’s student organizers held a sign displaying a list of demands that included sustainable agriculture, respect of indigenous people, policy based in science, people-based policy and the protection and restoration of biodiversity.

“We’re here to make a change and to try to help the community of Napa,” said Kalaya Jones, a junior at Napa High. “Our climate is dying, and we need to take a stand.”

Friday’s strike was just one of a series of strikes being held internationally, many by students, as a part of the Global Climate Strike. The movement is being largely accredited to 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began her personal climate strike in August 2018 by sitting in front of the Swedish parliament for three weeks during the school day. Thunberg’s strike went viral on social media, inspiring other students to join her in their own protests.

Thunberg, who marched in New York City’s strike on Friday, has said she will continue her protest by striking each Friday until Sweden’s policies put the country in line with the Paris agreement, an international agreement to combat climate change signed by 174 countries and the European Union in 2016. President Drumpf pulled the United States out of the agreement in 2017.

Thunberg’s Friday strikes inspired the hashtag #FridaysForFuture, which effectively launched the global strikes today. An additional set of strikes are expected to be held next Friday, Sept. 27, as part of the movement’s continued effort to bring attention to what many have declared a climate emergency.

In the United States, strikes took place in New York City, BostonSt. Louis and Philadelphia, among other major cities; worldwide, they were held in cities including Paris, FranceKabul, AfghanistanLondon, England; and Freiburg, Germany. Napa’s strike was one of several in Northern California.

“It was really amazing to know students across the world have the same mindset, the same hopes and the same demands for the future,” Ervin said. “It’s very empowering.”

“I saw little kids coming, and it made my heart pop – it was so great to see them,” Magana said while walking to the County Administration Building. “I think this is going to be one of the biggest global movements ever, and it’s pretty crazy that in my lifetime I get to experience this and be part of the movement, and create change.”

This article was originally published on the Napa Valley Register on October 3rd here.