Climate Change Strikes Out

By Sarah Feng


Last Friday morning, 40,000 activists gathered in San Francisco to demand action on climate change. Among them, a squadron of Pinewood teachers and students, bearing colorful signs and their chanting voices.

In the crowd stood Upper Campus teachers Monica Ventrice, Sarah Prestwood, Ellie Pojarska, and Sabrina Strand, who decided on an online group chat early September to attend the march together, according to Ventrice. Increasingly aware of climate change’s harmful impacts on the environment, they marched to show their solidarity with the thousands of young people gathered in support of the anti-climate-change #FridaysforFuture campaign––along with a handful of Upper Campus students. 

“I found it meaningful and inspiring, mainly because my kids did,” said Pojarska, who teaches high school English. “My oldest kid has become really concerned with climate change to the point where it causes him worry and anxiety. I think that was the first time that we felt we were with our people.”

Pojarska’s two children, Pinewood seventh grader Sava Iliev and fourth grader Raya Ilieva, marched on Friday, along with seniors Katherine Chui, Katherine Han, Sarah Feng, and sophomore Emily Takara. Ventrice’s son, first grader Artie Ventrice, and Prestwood’s three children also attended. 

According to Pojarska, Sava felt increasingly concerned about the climate over the past year and wanted to take action upon discovering the climate strike in San Francisco, he decided to attend. His poster read, “If you did your job right, we would be in school right now.” His sister’s read, “Why are we studying for a future we won’t have?”

As protesters began marching from the Civic Center at 10 a.m., similar posters filled the horizon of Market Street: hundreds of students, parents, and organization leaders held up signs like “Act like your house is on fire––because it is,” and “Respect your mother,” with an image of the Earth. The latter was a popular slogan, which Pinewood English teacher Strand also wrote on her sign.

The march across San Francisco was one of many worldwide: as many as 100,000 students left school in each city to demonstrate, from Melbourne to New York to Nairobi. Spearheaded by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg’s #FridaysforFuture walkout campaign, these strikes were intended to demand legislative action from the United Nations’ climate change summit on Monday, according to the New York Times. In San Francisco, protestors also demanded stricter regulations on fossil fuel companies from Californian representatives. 

“I saw that so many people cared––especially young people… who are [the] age between me and my son,” said Ventrice. “It makes me feel better to see there are so many people who care and will influence my son’s life.” 

Ventrice and Prestwood advise the Green Coalition, Pinewood’s teacher-student environmentalist club. In spite of various restrictions––including the fact that Upper Campus is in a rented space––the Coalition is pushing for the installment of solar panels at Upper Campus.

“Being a part of a movement that is trying to enact sweeping changes is not really glamorous,” said Prestwood, who bikes four miles to school each day in order to reduce her carbon footprint. “If millions of people are going to do something. . .it’s like a little tiny incremental part of a bigger picture.”