Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses wildfires in SoCal speech

LOS ANGELES — Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and organizers of Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles joined with hundreds of protesters in a demonstration outside Los Angeles City Hall to protest fossil fuel production in California.

She joined the swarm of people in the Civic Center area Friday who marched to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s downtown Los Angeles office and back to City Hall.

Thunberg said earlier this week that she visited the area where the Camp Fire burned more than 153,000 acres last year and met with survivors of the fire.

“Street after street with no houses left, I heard heartbreaking stories,” Thunberg said. “We can see the wildfires happening just around the corner. Everywhere around the world we can see these horrible environmental feedbacks that countless people are suffering and dying from.”

The state’s increasing frequency of wildfires has been blamed on climate change drying out California’s vast landscapes, although not everyone shares that viewpoint.

Thunberg, 16, said her generation has a responsibility to demand from elected officials environmental policy reforms that ban oil and gas drilling, from which carbon emissions have been identified as a primary source of the planet’s annual rising temperatures. She recently sailed to the United States in a zero-emissions sailboat and has been gradually making her way across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

“The scientists have been repeating the same message over and over again, and yet, they are still not being listened to,” Thunberg said. “Why are the people in power still pretending that everything is fine and we can just continue to live … as if there was no tomorrow? Well, there is a tomorrow — it is a tomorrow where we, the young people, will live and we need to fight for that tomorrow as if our lives depend on it, because it does.”

Shannon Ravii said she came to the climate strike with her two daughters, ages 2 and 5, who don’t quite understand the gravity of the situation, but she said he wants them to grow up in a home that respects the environment. “I wanted to show my girls another child who’s involved in saving their future,” Ravii said. She also said she tries to stay involved in environmental issues as much as she can.

A well-attended strike by the Los Angeles Youth Climate Strike occurred Sept. 20, which was joined by thousands of participants.

Newsom earlier this month signed a law that prohibits any California leasing authority from allowing pipelines or other oil and gas infrastructure to be built on state property. This could also make it harder for oil and gas companies to seek exploration and pipeline waivers on property adjacent to state land.

“On behalf of the city of Los Angeles, I welcome our students and Greta Thunberg to City Hall today,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a prepared statement. “Greta is inspiring young people everywhere to fearlessly demand that we act with conviction, courage and vision to save the planet because as bold as we have been in the work of reducing carbon emissions, it has not been enough. The students lifting their voices know the future belongs to them, and this is a moment for leaders to listen to their call and stand with the movement to embrace science, move with urgency and put a stop to global climate change,” he said.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz filed a motion Friday that requests the city’s petroleum officer provide a report on opportunities and strategies to legislatively eliminate the city’s carbon emissions as soon as possible. The city is already working to reduce its carbon emissions through the city’s Green New Deal.

The Los Angeles City Council’s Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee earlier this month asked for additional information before moving ahead with a proposal to require more buffer space between oil- and gas-drilling sites and sensitive areas and restricting new extraction sites.

Residents who spoke at the meeting asked the committee to approve a proposal to add a 2,500-foot health-and-safety buffer that would effectively phase out active oil wells close to homes and schools within five years.

Harbor Area resident Nalleli Cobo, 18, said during the climate strike that she’s been fighting against urban oil and gas drilling her whole life. Cobo said her family lives within 30 feet of an oil well.

“I was forced to fight for my community, our health and our lives,” Cobo said. “While growing up next to this oil well, I noticed my health take a toll for the worst. I have a higher risk of developing cancer and possible damage to my reproductive system. But it wasn’t just me, it was most of my community.”

The proposal also calls for the city to pursue a workforce development and economic revitalization program that would assist oil and gas workers affected by the new restrictions, while also providing clean-up operations in polluted neighborhoods.

The city’s petroleum administrator, Uduak-Joe Ntuk, said there are 16 active drilling sites and about 700 active oil wells within the city. There haven’t been any additional oil-drilling operations started in Los Angeles in the last five years, although there are permit applications pending, Ntuk said.

Koretz said local refineries are already importing 98% of their crude oil, so there wouldn’t be much of a change to their product output, but he conceded the proposals would reduce the city’s production.

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