Fifty-four Toby Johnson Middle School students on Sept. 26 walked out of their fifth period classes to join a protest on global climate change.
For years, global warming and climate change have caused much debate among supporters and challengers.
Prior to the United Nations’ Sept. 23 emergency summit on climate change, the issue intensified as climate scientists released a report showing that during the past several years, sea levels have risen, planetary warming and carbon pollution has increased, and ice sheets are shrinking.
Isabella Sigal, 13, led the climate change protest at Toby Johnson.
While standing on her school’s campus last week, Sigal explained why she organized the protest.
“People here – seventh and eight graders – we’re going to be going into high school and then after that, college, and we’re going to inherit the world,” she said. “We just want them to know that global climate change is really a big issue.”
The walkout was inspired by 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who has drawn international recognition for challenging world leaders to take stronger action to combat climate change.
Thunberg addressed the United Nations at the emergency summit, condemning them for failing to do enough in the “climate crisis.”
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth,” she told the UN.
Sigal credited her 29-year-old sister, Briana Garcia, for drawing her attention to Thunberg.
“This all started when my sister called me and she asked me if I was going to join the hundreds of strikes around the world, with millions of people,” she said. “I asked her what she was talking about, and she told me a little bit about Greta Thunberg and I thought, ‘New York doesn’t have to be the only state that participates in this. Small cities like Elk Grove should be a part of it.’”
More than a week has passed since Sigal began recruiting students to join her in a walkout at her school.
Sigal said that the activity was associated with the students and adults in 156 different countries who recently walked out on their schools and jobs to demand change.
Sofia Trujillo, who was one of those friends, recalled hearing Sigal’s recruitment call.
“It was a regular day at lunch and Isabella was yelling in the cafeteria, like ‘I saw this thing on the news and my sister told me about it, and we have to do it because it is an amazing cause.’”
Trujillo, 13, added that she was initially concerned that she could not make a difference.
“You feel like you can’t change anything, but you truly can, and the little things do make a difference when you work as a community, a city, a state and a nation.”
The walkout at Toby Johnson was about a 20-minute activity, which mainly involved a gathering of the students in the cafeteria.
At that meeting, both Sigal and Trujillo presented prepared speeches, while several other students shared their concerns on the climate change issue.
Sigal told the young attendees that people can make a difference.
“We all know the horrors we’re facing, and we know that they were caused by humans,” she said. “However, as humans ourselves, we don’t always remember that we also have the power to change things.”
Sigal told the group of students that entire animal species are dying as a result of global climate change.
“The fact that gets most people’s attention is that up to 200 species of animals are going extinct every day,” she said.
Trujillo offered suggestions to her schoolmates of things to do to “make a difference.”
“Simply, by turning off lights, conserving water, using less plastic, carpooling with friends, and maybe you can even convince your parents to buy a hybrid as their next car,” she said.
“As a school, we can change our use of utensils made of recycled materials. We can tell our school to put recycle bins next to every trash can. I know it may seem overwhelming, but it truly does start with each and every one of us.”
Sigal told the Citizen that she believes that through student activism inspired by Thunberg, negative global climate changes will be stopped.
“When we inherit the world, we don’t want it to be like, ‘Oh, we can’t change anything because of our ancestors way back. They did this to the world and we didn’t do anything to stop it,’ even if we were only in seventh and eighth grade,” she said. “Now, because of this, we will stop it.”