Students and Seniors of Sonoma unite in Climate Strike rally at town plaza

Young and old showed up at the Climate Strike rally in Sonoma on Dec. 6. Members of the FCC of Sonoma held signs supporting the 'New Green Deal.'

The downpour of rain on Friday didn’t stop the groups of people gathered at the Plaza in front of the old City Hall to participate in the National Climate Strike that coincided with the United Nations annual climate conference on Dec. 6.

Some at the rally referred to the effort to raise awareness about Climate Change as a ‘Green New Deal.’ The Climate Strike on that Friday in the town of Sonoma, had many in attendance. Dozens of students marched from Sonoma Valley High School to the Plaza as the rally began at 1:30 p.m.

Sonoma Valley High School Students at ‘The Plaza’ in the town of Sonoma, CA for the Climate Strike rally on Dec. 6, 2019.

As noted in the Sonoma Valley Sun, the response to climate change by today’s youth has been dramatic. This generation sees things differently than previous generations. It is this current generation that understands and demands through activist efforts like Climate Strike that something must be done now.

One aspect to the growing awareness of an environmental response urgency is The Green New Deal.

The “Green New Deal” as defined by Wikipedia, is a proposed United States legislation that aims to address climate change and economic inequality. The name refers to the New Deal, a set of social and economic reforms and public works projects undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression.

Scores of people both young and old joined in with the Sonoma Valley High students at the Plaza carrying signs and posters; some that read “Protect Our Mother – (Earth)”

SVHS chemistry and environmental sciences teacher, Kelly O’Leary was among the organizers of the local Climate Strike. She is the advisor/moderator of the high school’s ‘Earth Club’ on campus. O’Leary told The Sonoma Valley Sun that Friday that the United Nations’ IPCC1.5 special report that was released in 2018 only further solidified the urgency of this crisis.

“I am 28 years old, said O’Leary to the Sonoma Valley Sun and am staring down the barrel of a dark future that is being created without my consent.  I stand with my students because we are in the same boat, said O’Leary.  If we don’t reach net zero green- house gas emissions by 2030 we will see an increase about 1.5 degrees Celsius change and thus the extinction of coral reefs.  This will likely lead to the extinction of 25 percent of life in the oceans, organisms that depend on coral reefs.  It will also lead to the destruction of a food source for 500 million people around the world.”

Among those gathered at the Plaza besides the SVHS students were other concerned groups like ‘Earth Care’ of the First Congregational Church of Sonoma.  This reporter got word of the Climate Strike rally at the Plaza a week before from an Earth Care committee member, Cindy Lindh.

Lindh was eager to alert members of the press, especially local media. We talked at length about another issue, one that is of utmost importance to Lindh. And, that is, use of artificial turf.

Cindy Lindh and fellow FCC members at Climate Strike Rally in Sonoma on Dec. 6. Photos courtesy of Lindh and Stephanie Hiller, reporter – special to the Sonoma Valley Sun

Which is, as she explained, “a heat generator and inhibits grass and soil from the natural process of sequestering carbon.  We must reach a sustainable goal of 350 ppm of carbon within the next 10 years.  Current levels show a rate of 415ppm.”  The increasing use of artificial turf and asphalt in athletic fields and parks is a concern to environmentalists, she noted. “It’s driven by the need to reduce our carbon footprint.”

As Lindh sees it, the use of plastics and synthetic materials correlates to the Climate Strike.

Lindh pointed this out, because plastic materials are impacting the health of the earth’s oceans “which also struggle to sequester carbon and has even been detected in local water supplies due to particles breaking down from artificial turf,” she said.

News reports of whales and other marine life dying because of the amount of plastics found in their intestinal systems at autopsy is alarming. And Lindh sees a direct link between the increasing use of artificial turf and the ubiquitous use of plastic worldwide.

In March of this year, National Geographic Magazine online featured the deaths of whales. In that feature it reported that in some scientific studies over the past four years, 90 percent of all seabirds have ingested some amount of plastic. And, that agencies like UNESCO estimates that 100,000 marine mammals (such as whales) die annually due to plastic dispersed in oceans.

Invented over 150 years ago, plastic as we know it today wasn’t used as much until after WWII. Since the 1960’s plastics began to be used more frequently and for many things. Currently, there are at least seven forms of plastics used throughout the world. The most common is what is referred to as polyester or acrylic.

And, since the 1990’s the use of what is called “microfiber” has increased. Some studies show that the increased use of microfiber materials is another reason why marine life has ingested plastic. Very tiny bits of microfiber are released into oceans through washing.

A major reason why any form of plastic is not good is because it is not biodegradable. When heated or burned plastic is perhaps the most dangerous.  At high temperatures plastic releases hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, dioxins, furans and heavy metals, as well as other particulates. If breathed or ingested, burning plastic can cause internal problems, such as respiratory, intestinal and some forms of toxic poisoning and death.

Because of its flammability and toxicity when heated, Lindh feels it is important that people understand the dangers of plastic, especially in such materials related to the use of artificial turf in public spaces like stadiums and parks.

Over 10 years ago, the First Congregational Church of Sonoma formed an Earth Care Committee by adopting the Earth Care Covenants as part of their congregation’s beliefs and outreach. “The church is one of only seven across the nation upon which the title as a ‘Creation Justice Church’ has been conferred,” said Lindh.  Participating in Friday’s rally is an integral part of who they are as a faith community.

To learn more about Climate Strike as a global movement and the United Nations’ efforts to address climate change visit the Global Climate Strike website.