By the Human Rights Watch Student Task Force
As part of HRW Student Task Force’s (STF) advocacy to transition high schools across Southern California to 100% renewable energy, commit to energy efficiency plans, and engage in climate justice education, the STF hosted over 150 students, teachers, administrators, and community members at the “Human Rights and the Climate Crisis” Virtual Town Hall on Earth Day 2021.
“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our generation and we are at a monumental moment,” said one STF representative. “We are protecting our human rights to life, liberty, and personal security, to survival and development, and our right to health, to clean water – and a future! We are demanding public officials take action to protect our human rights and fight climate change.”
Students representing 18 high schools shared their personal climate stories, illustrating how climate change is impacting their lives. Several had experienced fire-threat evacuations and pollution-induced asthma, which further motivates them to take action. STF leaders also described using HRW’s methodology “Investigate, Expose, Change” to frame their advocacy as they engage school administrators and public officials.
Featured speaker, Christos Chrysiliou, LAUSD’s Director of Architectural and Engineering Services for the Facilities Division, discussed LAUSD’s steps to increase its energy and water efficiency, improve sustainability, and engage students in the decision-making process. “We cannot achieve all the things that we’re doing without your [students’] help… We need you in the process,” Mr. Chrysiliou said, “because that’s the only way to fight climate change.” Afterward, attendees participated in a spirited Q&A session with Mr. Chrysiliou. (Listen at 47:43 on the recording.)
Closing STF student speaker, Nathalia Wyss, quoted Greta Thunberg: “Act like your house is on fire, because it is – continue to take action against climate change and inform others, and please, keep fighting to turn our schools green.”