San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

On Global Climate Strike Day, San Diego protestors make their voices known

San Diego students and community members of all ages came together ‘to make their voices heard’ in protest of fossil fuels, to criticism and acclaim from SDSU students. Still, they marched on.
Alysse Dodge
Protestors march past the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union

There was nothing unusual about campus at San Diego State on the morning of Sept. 16, 2023, at least for the students walking between classes in the beating sun. Then, a movement began to form — local protestors rallying for environmental action against climate change for the annual Global Strike Day. 

“You can see (the effects of fossil fuels) with the naked eye from space — it is the destruction of forest on a scale unimaginable. The fossil fuel companies take bulldozers the size of houses and rip it all out. All the animals, all the plants, all that nature completely destroyed so they can get to the dirtiest, nastiest tar sands toxic waste you will ever see in your life,” said Scott Kelley, professor of biology. “What you’re doing here is the change the world desperately needs.”

Kelley’s eyes were heartfelt as he raised his fists to the crowd before him. He spoke with fervor of the wildfires in Maui, Hurricane Hilary in California and the catastrophic floods in Libya as evidence of the environmental cause that brought those in attendance together. 

Older men nodded as a group of young women raised their signs in agreement. Their signs sported painted flowers and depictions of planet Earth, emblazoned with phrases such as “Save our Planet” and “Climate Action Now.”

Two protestors hold signs rallying for action towards climate change. (Alysse Dodge)

It was Global Climate Strike Day and protestors worldwide gathered to demand change. The day of widespread protests took place in anticipation of the U.N. climate summit, for which local strike organizers called upon President Biden to declare a climate emergency. In San Diego, the movement was making noise.

The protest gathered at the SDSU Student Union around noon, with students arriving after class and organizers arranging posters and speakers. One young woman picked up a megaphone and asked the crowd to join her, chanting “Stop denying, the Earth is dying! Stop denying, the Earth is dying!”

As the chanting rose louder, students walking past stopped to look over at the commotion. After the chant and speeches from Kelley and Holmes, the group was finally ready to go. The procession set off for a march around campus, from the Student Union, around the CalCoast Credit Union, at a sharp turn at Campanile Walkway to weave around Hepner.

Those in attendance also began to chant, “Sea levels are rising! And so are we!”

During this trek, more students stopped to watch. Skateboards slowed, slackliners jumped from their ropes and conversationalists paused to take the assertive group in. However, it wasn’t always because they agreed. 

“This isn’t going to help the planet!” one passerby yelled.

“It’s not real, you know!” another said, alluding to a “Stop Climate Change” sign.

But the protestors continued, unfazed. 

“I think it’s important to protest no matter what because throughout history, most youth have not had their voices heard. Thankfully from the ’60s countercultural revolution, college students had the chance to speak up, which paved the way for us to speak up, too,” Tim Lazaro, a second-year transfer student, said. 

Lazaro, who marched at the strike, said his main goal was to make a change and bring awareness to other students.

The organization SanDiego305 — described by youth program coordinator Xavier Holmes as “multi-generational” — was a driving force in bringing the group together. From youth to young adults to the elderly, they represented the diversity of San Diegans invested in their cause, as people from all ages and backgrounds shared chants and greetings.

“Personally, I think everyone should be concerned because this is about our future. As we see, some of the most negative consequences of the climate crisis are happening right now… So it’s really about taking a stand and taking control of our futures again,” Holmes said. “Today is a global day of climate action for (the) youth. San Diego is proud to mobilize thousands of youth to share that mission and to have their voices amplified.”

Emeritus professor George Jiracek, 84, shared the sentiment and called on his peers to become more involved. 

“I’m shocked by the lack of faculty here supporting climate action. They should be as brave as our students,” Jiracek said.

The SDSU student organizer for the event, Bryan Callejo, emphasized the importance of their goals. He was in attendance when the group had protested at SDSU years prior and says that the lack of change is what sparked his return.

The march continues past Hepner Hall (above). (Alysse Dodge)

“There are consequences to not just the use of fossil fuels but allowing climate change to get out of hand. That’s why we’re here to protest peacefully to demand more immediate action to be taken towards climate change. I see that we’re still not heading in the right direction. There’s progress being made but also progress being repealed,” Callejo said. 

Callejo led the protestors for the majority of the strike. He chanted from his megaphone and led their unwavering calls for climate action. The sound of their shoes hitting the concrete and calls for change reverberated within Hepner Hall as they continued to the last leg of their demonstration.

“I feel it!” one passerby yelled. “I like the message!”

By the end, protestors beamed and gathered where they had begun. It had been a cloudy day, but as they finished their walk, the sun shined down. Holmes stood in the sun to make his closing remarks and congratulate those who had come together for a day where people across San Diego, the country and the world were making themselves heard.

“As a species, we need to come together and realize that the way we mine our resources and the way we interact with our Earth has consequences and those consequences are becoming pretty abrupt,” Holmes said. “It’s time that we stand up and have our voices heard as youth, especially, because we’re going to be the ones inheriting this damaged world. That’s why it’s so important for us to fight.”

About the Contributor
Katerina Portela
Katerina Portela, Staff Writer