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Sonoma County climate activists to join in worldwide call for action

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Joining an international day of youth-led environmental strikes, local activists are planning to walk out of school and work later this week to rally support for efforts to fight global climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions.

Strikes are set for Friday in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Petaluma, San Francisco, Oakland and dozens of other cities and towns around the world. The events, timed just ahead of a United Nations climate summit, are the latest in a series of weekly Friday events in which young people speak and act out in the name of saving the planet.

“This is a very hopeful and action-driven event,” said Franchesca Duval, a Sebastopol chicken farmer helping to organize the Santa Rosa strike. “It’s not just ‘Come out and get scared.’ It’s come out and let the world know that we as Californians are supporting the global community, that we need to be making these changes.”

More than 500 people, including students from Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma State University and Analy High School, are expected to participate Friday, Duval said.

Santa Rosa’s event will begin at 9:30 a.m. on the junior college campus. A march to Old Courthouse Square will begin at 11 a.m. A rally will follow at noon, and “opportunities for action” also will be available on the square after the rally.

Lucia Garay, an event organizer and senior at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, noted that the youth-driven movement needed support and solidarity from adults to bolster the call for action to create a healthy and sustainable planet. Millennials and younger generations are more likely than older Americans to be worried about climate change and to believe that human activity causes global warming and rapid sea level rise, recent polling has shown.

“The public as a whole doesn’t recognize how strongly students feel about this or why they feel so strongly,” Garay said. “Climate change is the largest issue we have ever faced as a species, basically.”

More organized climate action is planned for Sept. 27, according to an international website for the climate strike initiative.

The practice of young people calling for climate-change-related action on Fridays in recent months can be traced to a Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who was in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday speaking to Democratic U.S. senators to deliver a message she’s been broadcasting to adults all over the world.

“I know you’re trying, but just not hard enough. Sorry,” she told senators, the Associated Press reported.

The strikes come as many in the American political left coalesce behind legislation meant to address climate change and economic inequality known as the Green New Deal, a key tenet of which is transitioning the United States onto 100% renewable energy. That shift would fundamentally redefine a society marked by widespread gasoline-powered vehicle use and in which nearly two-thirds of all electricity comes from coal or natural gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Information Administration.

Despite its supporters’ cries of urgency, the Green New Deal and policy packages like it stand a snowflake’s chance in the current federal power structure. The Senate is controlled by Republicans either uninterested with or critical of the Green New Deal, and President Donald Trump’s administration has rolled back anti-emission regulations, advocated for increased coal use, and distanced the United States from the Paris climate framework.

California has set its own goal of achieving carbon neutrality, meaning emissions are either eliminated or offset, by 2045. Californians will start to see changes in building codes early next year under a state mandate for new homes to include solar panels and dozens of local requirements that most homes be independent of the natural gas network.

Duval said Friday’s rally could signal to people that their activism matters, even in progressive California. She pointed to a deal between the state government and four major automakers to hold their vehicles to tougher pollution restrictions as an example of how California could lead the climate fight. The Trump administration is expected to formally revoke California’s authority to set pollution rules on Wednesday.

“Our economic buying power and what standards we set really set the tone for the rest of the United States,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed information to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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