BY OSCAR CAMACHO
Last Friday, Delano youth and other community members gathered together to march in solidarity with the rest of the world and demand environmental justice through the Delano Environmental Strike.
The event was organized by Ecolution, an environmental conservation club at Cesar E. Chavez High School, and was largely inspired by the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led political movement with a goal to make climate change a priority in America.
Participants met at 5 p.m. at the Delano International Community sign on High Street and marched all the way to Delano’s City Hall building, where students shared their testimonials and demanded sustainable solutions for our growing climate crisis.
Delano wasn’t the only city to make a statement. Delano joined an estimated 4 million other young people across the globe to march, strike, rally and organize for change.
Participating in this event was truly inspiring because I’ve witnessed first-hand in my own community how young peoples’ activism is sometimes passively dismissed. Despite petty attempts to discredit us, I’m very optimistic that my generation can create real, lasting change as long as we continue to organize events like this.
I’m glad this event focused on the narratives of young people who grew up in Delano and who are all passionate about advancing social justice.
Paola Bravo Garcia, a student at Cesar E. Chavez High, was one of the main organizers for the event, and during her testimonial, she talked about some local environmental issues that directly impact Delano.
“Our parents and grandparents who work in the fields still experience health issues,” she said, “We just found out that our water system is toxic. 1,2,3-TCP causes cancer in laboratory animals and industrial waste sites. Last time I checked, our sinks and bathtubs are not industrial and hazardous waste sites.”
Syvannah Sandoval, another student at Cesar E. Chavez High, also brought light to these issues and talked about the need for our community to demand urgent change from our leaders.
“Many [policymakers] consider that solutions and proposed environmental legislation is too radical,” she stated. “It is our duty and responsibility to advocate for legislation that protects our environment. It rests in the hands of each and every one of you today.”
I, too, strongly believe that it’s extremely important for us to collectively demand change from ourselves and our elected officials. We need to find ways to change our culture of massive consumption and shift towards a society where we focus on conservation and respect for our environment. But we cannot achieve this change alone.
We also need to demand that our politicians put our needs first — not the interests of corporations. We need to demand they use scientific research to shape public policy.
We also need to reach out to them and invite them to local events like this to ensure that they can connect with us, hear our concerns and hopefully pass legislation that protects our health.
I remember hearing a quote once that resonated with me, and it exemplifies the role of government to me very clearly. It goes something like, “the role of government is to solve problems collectively that we cannot solve individually.”
Climate change cannot be solved individually.
We need to work together to ensure that our communities have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. We need to stop being okay with being a statistic: one of the most polluted counties in nation. Overall, we need to try our best to correct the decades of injustice and neglect that lead us to this point.
When I see young people organizing in my community, I see democracy in action. Their civic engagement is powerful to me. It inspires me to do more and learn more. In them, I see activists, leaders, change-makers and most importantly the future of my community.
Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.