Millions of people around the world are taking part in the Global Climate Strike. It’s been organized by international networks of young people, and young people in Hawai‘i are right on top of it.
“Social media has blown up and everyone is so excited for Friday and I’m so excited for Friday,” said Kristen Brown, the Hawai‘i state logistics director for Hawai‘i Youth Climate Strike, 17. She attends Campbell High School.
“I think it’s incredibly powerful that the youth have taken it in their own hands, because we’re forced to, to make the change and to make the difference.
“Our national finance director, the person that handles tens of thousands of dollars, is 14, 15 years old,” says Kawika Pegram, 18, from Waipahu High. He is Hawai‘i state lead organizer for U.S. Youth Climate Strike.
“We’re showing that even though we’re young, we still have the capability of making the right financial decisions and by extension, the right voting decisions. We’re not only a global coalition, we’re a global leadership of young people.”
Pegram says the national movement puts respect for indigenous land at the center of their platform, followed closely by agriculture and biodiversity.
“If we don’t have those two, then the future we’re building won’t be sustainable at all.”
“Hawai‘i was the first state in the nation to do 100% renewable by 2045,” Pegram points out. “That established our state as a leader in the country for being environmentally friendly. That’s why I think we’re in a very special place because we’ll be able to get these things done hopefully in the next legislative year and really launch the coming steps for other states in the future.”
Seventeen-year-old homeschooler Dyson Chee is particularly plugged in about plastics. Chee says he was aware but apathetic, then he went to a Surfrider Foundation meeting.
“After that meeting I was like, 'WOW! I can do something!'” Chee threw himself into advocacy, giving testimony, and talking with businesses and others his own age.
Chee has been lobbying at the Honolulu City Council in support of two bills---Bill 25 to promote electric vehicles and Bill 40, a more comprehensive plastics ban.
Hawai‘i Youth Climate Strike is behind two bills at the legislature next session. One is to establish a climate curriculum, since so few have ever learned about it formally. The other bill would establish Meatless Mondays for public school lunches. Pegram sees Meatless Mondays as low hanging fruit because of its multiple benefits.
“Not only is that significantly better for the environment, but that also saves costs, leads to healthier students, encourages local farming. Especially Meatless Mondays is a landmark bill that we have to get passed next year.”
Pegram says great strides have been made organizing since the last youth action in spring 2019. He and Brown say the work takes its toll in combination with regular school commitments. As a homeschooler, Chee says he appreciates the freedom to focus his energies, and marvels that Pegram, for example, is always there, answering texts in a minute at 2 a.m.
“The work we’re trying to do is depressing,” says Pegram. “Absolutely depressing. If you’re not looking into the silver linings of the work we do which are, getting kids involved, getting kids civically engaged, getting people registered to vote, if you’re not looking at the bright side, then the work gets really dark.”
“The core thing of the work that we do is that we love. We’re trying to protect something we love,” says Chee.
Pegram is always wondering how to break through. “This actually is a legit crisis, know what I mean? We should probably do something for real about it. If you’re listening and you want to do something about climate change, you guys can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and take action on climate change. Just let me know.”
Their message: Our house is on fire, and they are using hashtags #StrikeWithUs, #ClimateStrike and #FridaysforFuture.