Berkeley’s student-led climate strike: ‘Let’s demand climate action’

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hundreds of students, staff, faculty and community members packed onto UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza at 11 a.m. today, Sept. 20, joining millions across the world for a Global Climate Change Strike. The global strike, inspired by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, had a simple and urgent message: “Our house is on fire — let’s act like it.”

“We hope that this climate strike spurs further direct action,” said Dante Gonzales, a senior studying society and environment and conservation resources, who helped organize the event. “Berkeley’s motto is ‘Let there be light.’ We want that light to shine on important issues, such as climate change.”

People of all ages held signs and spoke out, showing their commitment to tackling climate change, an issue that many say is the biggest challenge this generation faces.

“What do we want?” shouted Sylvia Targ, a senior studying geography and conservation and resource studies, and an ASUC senator.

“Climate action,” shouted back the crowd.

“When do we want it?”


“This is a community that built me,” Targ said about UC Berkeley. “Who does this movement include? Everyone — if you are alive on this planet right now. We are one. This is not supposed to be comfortable. This is a time when we come together for change.”

The University of California announced on Tuesday, Sept. 17, that it has joined with more than 7,000 colleges and universities around the globe to declare a climate emergency and commit to urgent action to address the crisis. UC President Janet Napolitano and all 10 UC chancellors have signed a climate emergency declaration letter that recognizes “the need for a drastic societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change.”

As part of Berkeley’s climate strike event, faculty and students held 20-minute teach-ins on Sproul Plaza before the rally, and nearly 20 booths run by on-campus organizations and community partners lined the walkway, all offering a way for people to get involved in fighting climate change.

Sophomore Valerie Hammer is part of Epsilon Eta, an environmental service fraternity on campus. She was at a booth that had on display the climate and energy policy platforms of the top Democratic candidates.

“We wanted to give people a way to engage more personally,” said Hammer, “ and something we all have is our vote. It can be really easy to be in this space, with people who care about climate action. The energy is palpable, but it doesn’t mean that much if we’re not doing anything past today.”

At another booth stood Conor Martin, an electrical engineering and computer science major, who was representing ASUC senator Sylvia Targ. 

“Our goal is to start a conversation with the university to help with their 2025 carbon neutrality plan,” said Martin. “Our goal is to remove the cogeneration natural gas plant on campus and instead install solar throughout campus.”

Toward the end of the rally, middle schoolers from the “Longfellow Dream Team” got on stage to voice their concerns about the future, and to give some advice.

“To adults who don’t care about climate change,” said a seventh-grader named Chole, “Grow up.”

By noon, Gonzales, who emceed the event, closed on a positive and direct note: “Thank you all for coming out today,” he said. “Now, let’s demand climate action!”