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Thousands of students strike to demand climate action from global leaders

From Sept. 20-27, students and activists in over 150 countries protested to demand that global leaders take climate change seriously. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden, led the charge and urged today’s youth to take their future into their own hands.

Students chant and hold signs as they protest in front of Mills.( JESSICA GILLESPIE)

“We are doing this to wake up the leaders,” Thunberg said in an article for the National Geographic. “We deserve a safe future. Is that too much to ask?”

Thunberg was at the forefront of the New York City climate march on Sept. 20. She has been an inspiration for many youth activists, which contributed to the fact that the city’s public schools allowed 1.1 million students permission to skip school and join the march.

Three days after leading the protest in New York City on Sept. 23, Thunberg used her voice and delivered a speech at the UN’s Climate Action Summit. During Thunberg’s speech. She stated facts evidencing that global temperatures are rising and expressed her frustration that adults in power are not acting to tackle climate change effectively.

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing,” said Thunberg. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

The same day as Greta Thunberg and thousands of her peers rallied around the world for climate action, Mills President Beth Hillman also stressed the importance of environmental sustainability in the face of rising global temperatures during the college’s Convocation Ceremony.

“Young people are calling for faster and greater changes to protect the Earth and its inhabitants from the catastrophic effects of the hotter future that looms ahead,” Hillman said. “Some Mills students are not with us this morning because they choose to join the climate strike in San Francisco.”

In her speech to the Mills community, Hillman shared the climate history of the campus. In 1852, Mills’ first year as a college, the average global temperature was about a quarter of a degree Celsius below the global 20th century average. In 2002, when Mills turned 150, the average global temperature was more than half a degree above the Earth’s 20th century average, and the rate of global warming was doubling. According to Hillman, when Mills celebrates its 175th anniversary in 2027, the heating caused by greenhouse gases is expected to overcome the thermal inertia of the oceans.

The current state of the climate is leaving people in a state of unrest. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stated that as of August 2019 the global land-only surface temperature was the fourth highest August global land-only temperature in the 140-year record at 1.14°C (2.05°F) above the 20th century average of 13.8°C (56.9°F).

This steady increase in global temperatures has had a detrimental impact on our planet’s environmental structures. Ocean levels are rising due to melting sea ice, and coral reefs are being bleached, most likely irreversible, due to rising temperatures.

President Hillman also mentioned Project Drawdown in her convocation speech. This organization is a global resource on climate change and has identified that the education of girls is one of the most critical tools in the fight against global warming.

Project Drawdown experts ranked the education of women and girls as sixth out of 80 proposed solutions. Informing women and girls is right below saving tropical forests and just above building solar farms.

Hillman added that Mills is, therefore, part of the solution to climate change because the college is an educational institution committed to gender and racial justice.

“Mills, past, present and future are tied to this earth to the Ohlone land we occupy, to the climate we and our ancestors create and adore,” said Hillman. “It is only through brave collective action that we will be able to achieve any semblance of intergenerational and environmental equity through this crisis of climate and humanity.”