With rally chants, posters and songs, demonstrators blasted what they called inaction by world leaders attending the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland that’s scheduled to end Friday. They blocked some traffic and tried to recruit residents on the sidewalks to join their cause, saying elected officials across the board have been compromised by the fossil fuel industry and failed to deliver serious climate action.
Students from local high schools and UC Berkeley helped lead the demonstration, saying their futures would be most affected by the ravenous effects of climate change on the planet.
“Oceans rising like my anxiety,” said Aniya Butler, a sophomore at Oakland Charter School, as she read aloud a spoken word poem for the rally crowd on Saturday. “Is this really a world we want to live in?”
While the march was centered around youth activism, many of the participants were adults who belong to various Bay Area-based organizations, most of them sharing an anti-capitalist philosophy.
“People thought that, ‘If I just vote Democrat, this will get better,’ but did it?” Xochitl Johson, an organizer of the Oakland-based Revolution Club, shouted over a megaphone, as the rallygoers responded “No!”
At one point, the procession stopped in front of Chase Bank in Berkeley, and rallygoers chanted that Chase and other global financial corporations are lying about the notion that “the world is on fire.”
The afternoon rally echoed similar messages spread by more than a hundred thousand protesters who took to the streets of Glasgow on Saturday to decry the COP26 summit and express frustration at how world leaders have approached the crisis.
Nik Evasco, an organizer with regional nonprofit 350 Bay Area, said climate conferences like COP26 have largely been failures, since governments have still not taken direct action to halt carbon emissions.
“It’s completely exclusive,” Evasco said in an interview. “It’s really only for corporations to show up and pat each other on the back, and for big countries like the U.S. and the (European Union) to take credit for nothing.”
Cassie King, a UC Berkeley alum and lead organizer with the Bay Area’s chapter of Direct Action Anywhere, said Saturday’s rally in the city would be an opportunity to shed light on how some factors of climate change have been erased from mainstream discourse.
“Animal agriculture needs to be addressed in that discussion,’ King said in an interview. “It’s all too often completely ignored, even when we know animal agriculture contributes to 40% of global methane emissions. So it’s a big, glaring, empty area for COP26.”
There wasn’t any police presence at the afternoon rally, and some drivers who were stopped in traffic signaled their support to those marching past their cars. Demonstrations like these are nothing new at UC Berkeley, but a member of the school’s Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter said the rally was an opportunity to bring more budding supporters of climate justice into the fold.
“We really need to rethink our approach to climate issues and the way we influence those in power,” said Erik Hagstrom, a political economy major at the university. “I certainly don’t have a surefire, straightforward method, but I think we need to start experimenting with different tactics — and we’ve got to start soon. There’s not enough time for dilly-dallying.
Read More: Hundreds march in Berkeley against ‘inaction’ at U.N. COP26