Valley Voices

Climate action strikes must keep happening to change the path the world is on

Kieshaun White, right, an 18-year-old who grew up in southwest Fresno and has been detailing differences in air quality between north and south Fresno, configures an air quality monitor with help from his mentor, Marcel Woodruff, at Phoenix High School on Dec. 11, 2018. White is working to install air quality monitors at high schools throughout Fresno Unified School District and developed an app so people can check air quality in real time on those school campuses.
Kieshaun White, right, an 18-year-old who grew up in southwest Fresno and has been detailing differences in air quality between north and south Fresno, configures an air quality monitor with help from his mentor, Marcel Woodruff, at Phoenix High School on Dec. 11, 2018. White is working to install air quality monitors at high schools throughout Fresno Unified School District and developed an app so people can check air quality in real time on those school campuses. Fresno Bee file

My love for science has changed my life and provided me opportunities that I never dreamed of. More important than that, science and its application has empowered people like me to save lives.

In school we are taught that STEM related fields could get us good jobs, but in the bigger picture these fields save and better people’s lives.

I have learned this firsthand through my time at Fresno Boys and Men of Color, where my mentor taught me computer programming and challenged me to use my knowledge and love of science to improve my community.

k shaun
Kieshaun White Marcel Woodruff Contributed

I chose to do a science project on air quality because so many people in my community in southwest Fresno suffer from asthma.

Needing a drone and a lightweight sensor to do this, the technology, engineering and math soon kicked in — STEM at work! I found that particulate matter levels in northwest and northeast schools are much lower than those in southwest and southeast.

To help protect students, Fresno Healthy Air was established. We’re installing real-time particulate monitors from PurpleAir.com at every high school and earlier this year released a mobile app that gives people the reading from the nearest sensor.

But so what?

Like I said, STEM education is about more than getting good jobs, it is about saving and improving quality of life. If sincere studies in science, technology, engineering, are simply ignored by leaders who continue to pollute our community at a local, national, and global levels and ignore important issues like climate change, then seriously, what is the point?

The adults in charge of our community and those running this country ignore science. The city wants to keep putting more and more polluters next to neighborhoods and schools, and Congress ignores climate change.

I didn’t learn about what Greta (Thunberg) was doing in Sweden until recently and it really inspired me. She’s right that we spend our whole childhood with adults telling us to prepare for our future, while science is telling us that adults aren’t really working hard enough to secure a future for us to prepare for.

I learned the scientific method and how to understand peer-reviewed science. I wanted to live in a world where I could do fun and new things with science. But that has been stolen from me and my entire generation. We are being forced to figure out solutions to a problem that we didn’t create.

Carbon emissions are rising too fast, the planet is heating too fast, and people are suffering and dying, including victims of wildfires right here in California.

It’s meaningful to me that Greta got the idea for school strikes from Parkland, Fla. students who didn’t want to go to school after the mass shooting there. I have friends who, on their way to school every day have to walk past memorials to people killed by gun violence.

That’s the personal climate we live in. It needs to be fixed at the same time we fix the global climate. This big change has to help all people.

It’s time for students to rise up to strike for the climate — for our future — in a new way. Warn your parents, teachers, mentors, grandparents that science is saying we only have 11 years left to do something before the damage is too great to reverse.

That’s not enough time for us to finish school, start our careers, and rise in power to take responsibility. So we have to force adults into action. They must unite behind the science.

I am not saying it will be easy, but it is something we have to do. We have to strike.

If you can’t get out, try a lunchtime strike. Make a climate strike sign and sit where people can see you at school. Talk to other students about the science. Form a squad of your own. Text #fresnoclimatestrike to 66866 to connect with us.

Parents, teachers, and administrators, we need your support. Don’t create roadblocks — create pathways. We know you want us safe and in school. We want those things, too, but this a deeply important issue. We are the ones who face a very dangerous future, and we’re applying the lessons you’ve taught us.

Keishaun White is an environmental justice advocate for Fresno Healthy Air.

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