The hubbub of conversation filling a dark theater in Santa Monica College (SMC) died out, replaced by the voice of sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, in a video of her speech at the December 2018 U.N. Climate Summit.

“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children,” she said, prompting a visibly emotional reaction from the audience.

The students and activists were gathered in the Theater Arts Main Stage at SMC for the school’s Youth For Climate Action Panel, organized on May 9. Patrick Hentschel, an SMC student, served as moderator. Panelists included the chair of SMC’s Psychology Department Alex Schwartz, spokesperson for the youth-based climate action organization Sunrise Movement D Garcia and a pair of senior organizers of Food & Water Watch Walker Foley and Alexandra Nagy

“People are not ready for what’s coming and they really need to understand that we will have a very different future for all of us if we keep going on this path,” said Ferris Kawar, the Director of Sustainability at SMC as he opened the event.

Schwartz detailed a few issues that deter anti-climate change activism: “Our brains are good at taking immediate actions towards stimuli that are present, that are visible,” he said. When it comes to climate change, Schwartz said, “even worse than it being far away, it doesn’t have a face.”

Nagy’s environmental focus is primarily on eliminating fracking in the state of California and beyond. Both Nagy and Foley emphasized California has recently decided to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry, a huge accomplishment for the two.

“We’ve known about this for decades. It’s not for a lack of knowledge, it’s not for a lack of science, that we haven’t done anything,” Nagy said.

“We’re looking for people like yourselves, in your community, and telling you that it’s okay to believe in yourself,” Foley said.

While all the panelists were in favor of more action, disagreement broke out in response to a question about personal versus corporate responsibility for the environment.

An audience-member questioned the value of personal sacrifices given the 2017 Carbon Majors Report report, which claims 100 corporations are responsible for 71 percent of global pollution.

Nagy said that, “a revolution includes overthrowing our fossil fuel Capitalist overlords.”

Schwartz and Hentschel debated whether the discussion of minimal community-based actions and that of action from bigger corporations need to be mutually exclusive. The two settled the matter by saying that both are important topics.

“The difference in many ways is that they have the bigger button,” said Hentschel.

SMC will offer free courses in sustainability this summer, and already offers a number of courses related to environmental topics.

This story was produced as part of a partnership between the SMC Corsair student newspaper and the Santa Monica Daily Press.

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  1. It is important that the youth of today understand that personal responsibility for climate change is a real thing.

    While some at this conference indicated that it was a corporate responsibility to fix this problem, there is no incentive for the dirty energy companies to do so. As long as the parents of these children continue to drive gas-burning cars, and as long as these children grow up and do the same, the oil companies will drill for oil, ship it, refine it, distribute the gasoline, and then pump it into your tank.

    You are paying them to do this. Why would they stop?

    Further, expecting these companies to fall into line because of some laws passed by Congress is not going to happen, because they make billions of dollars in profit every quarter, and they use some of this money to buy enough votes in Congress to keep those laws from ever being passed in the first place.

    The solution does involve personally removing dirty energy from your lives to the greatest extent possible. Your home’s electricity can easily be switched to 100% renewable through your utility. If you need a car, there are dozens of very good electric options available, both new and used. Switch to an EV and power it with clean electricity.

    Doing these two things is the most effective action anyone can take to solve the climate problem.

  2. Earth is our only home !

    Everyone must act climate-conscious responsible.

    Trees are natural free carbon emissions cleaners and provide shade for less AC energy usage!

    Santa Monica City Hedge Height’s steamroller continues to cut down volumes of private residential mature tree canopy which is a valuable resource we need to clean our air and trees provide shade for less AC usage. It seems like they are in violation of their own Santa Monica Climate Crisis Action Plan. What’s up?

    Please see Santa Monica Climate Crisis Action Plan (CAAP) and write our city council in support of the May 28th city council meeting, Garrett Wong, Senior Analyst will present CAAP to finally give the council a provision to change the outdated hedge height code to include our valuable tree canopy resource and a private tree ordinance. Insist on a moratorium to put a hold on the axing of our precious carbon emissions cleaning beautiful residential trees! (aka hedges because they are touching! oh no!)

    Please help support Santa Monica Climate Crisis Action Plan (CAAP) so we can all breathe easier!

    On another note, a neighbor and his dog were recently maced in their home by three hooded home invaders, still on the loose. Crime is very bad in Santa Monica. It would be nice if SM City cuts down on crime and not beneficial trees!

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