LOS ANGELES (CN) – Climate activist Greta Thunberg joined hundreds of climate activists – both young and old – in downtown Los Angeles on Friday to call attention to global warming and to empower people to hold elected leaders accountable.
Organizers said California’s oil drilling industry is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and its unsafe safety standards cause residents near drill sites to suffer health problems.
The Fridays for Future movement gained worldwide recognition since Thunberg went on strike outside Swedish Parliament in 2018.
Since then, the 16-year-old has embarked on a transatlantic sailing trip from the United Kingdom to New York to raise awareness on greenhouse gas emissions. She went on to address the United Nations in September during the Climate Action Summit and she was shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thunberg said she recently visited the small town of Paradise in Northern California, which was devastated by a wildfire a year ago.
“I met with survivors who showed me around the devastation. Street after street with no houses left. I heard heartbreaking stories,” said Thunberg. “Today, in California we can see the wildfires happening just around the corner. Wildfires that are being intensified by the climate crisis. But it’s not just here.”
She said climate change is causing a dangerous feedback loop that imperils the lives of future generations – and it will be up to the youth to hold their leaders accountable.
The event was organized by Youth Climate Strike, a movement inspired by Thunberg.
During her speech in Los Angeles, Thunberg asked why climate scientists are being ignored which has put people lives at risk.
“Right now, we are living in the beginning of a climate and ecological breakdown. We cannot continue to look away from this crisis anymore,” said Thunberg.
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After the speech, 77-year-old Joe Roberts said he was not offended by Thunberg saying older generations failed the youth.
“It’s a good point. Not enough was done. I know I can’t do much now. But I can support them,” said Roberts.
Kori “Koko” Malia, 21, of Redondo Beach is a youth group leader with Climate Reality Project and understands the importance of reaching out to young people and allowing them to become involved with climate activism.
“So much is relayed to middle schoolers and the way they’re learning at that age makes a big difference,” said Malia, who was joined by her mother, Lisa Takashima.
Malia says she believes she developed an autoimmune disease from coastal refineries near where she lives, a stark reality many communities face. Takashima says her daughter used to run cross-country until a few years ago.
“I’m glad my mom is so supportive of me doing this. That’s the best gift she can give me. To allow me to fight for my future,” said Malia.
Several hundred marchers went to one of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s offices in downtown Los Angeles to demand he order phasing out the fossil fuel industry in California. No Newsom representatives met the crowd.
Los Angeles is one a few cities that have promised to push forward economic and environmental policies, much like the Green New Deal proposed by congressional Democrats. In September, Climate Strike activists rallied outside City Hall, where LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city would strive to become 100% renewable by 2030.