"Climate Grief"-Stricken Students Protest as Hollywood Rallies in L.A.

New -1920 Archer Climate Strike 2 -Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of The Archer School for Girls

As Mark Ruffalo and Mick Jagger lend support to the Greta Thunberg-fronted movement, studio-executive and agency-partner parents are attending the downtown Pershing Square protest as LAUSD does not excuse school absentees: “Our kids are very activated."

The Global Climate Strike, sweeping around every time zone and starting in Los Angeles today at noon, is involving Hollywood parents including CAA Foundation executive Rachel Kropa and their kids. Timed to occur three days before the United Nation’s Climate Summit, the strike has already seen hundreds of thousands of participants leave school or work across Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe. Stars including Mark Ruffalo and Mick Jagger have tweeted in support of the strike, which demands action on the climate crisis and is inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

Said Ruffalo in a video message on Twitter: “We’re going to back up our young people in their cry for a climate future and a livable future…the biggest strike of this nature to support the Green New deal, 100 percent renewable energy, the respect of indigenous rights and treaties, biodiversity, environmental justice and sustainable agriculture. These are all things that together can make an impact, can help us mitigate against the worst of what we’re facing in climate change, and help ensure a better future for these beautiful young people who are crying out right now for us to be sincere and honest and earnest in dealing with this catastrophe.”

In Los Angeles, the main Climate Strike march will take place downtown at Pershing Square. Among the participants will be students from Archer School for Girls, the private girls' school in Brentwood whose board of trustees includes producer Frank Marshall and TriStar chief Hannah Minghella. The school is providing transportation for eighth to 12th grade students who are interested in attending. A school representative said that Thunberg’s work and the climate crisis in general, including the feeling of what’s known as “climate grief” (meaning despair about the future due to global warming) have been recent topics of conversation at Archer.

Marie Jacobson, executive vp original series at Sony Pictures Television, has two children at Archer who will be taking part. “Our kids have definitely woke up our family,” she says. “We’ve marched together previously on gun reform and on women’s rights. Greta Thunberg is a year older than my eighth grader and look what she’s done — she’s created this sense of urgency.”

As a private school, Archer has a fair degree of independence to allow kids to participate. Things are different on the public-school front in Los Angeles. While New York City’s Department of Education had given its students permission to participate in today’s climate protests, the Los Angeles Unified School District is not excusing absences today. One of the deciding factors in LAUSD’s decision is that Sept. 20 is Norm Day, a critical moment for all public schools as their future funding depends on attendance rates today.

Some Los Angeles-area schools are planning sanctioned events either on or near their campuses, especially schools with younger kids. At UCLA Lab School today, fifth- and sixth-graders will walk out of their classrooms at 11:50 a.m. “They will do a walk through the UCLA campus for about 30 minutes. We’ve done this before — we struck for equality. Our kids are very activated. As much as we can, we want to make our kids aware of what’s going on in the world,” says a UCLA Lab School green committee member Ryan Gates, who, with her husband, director Tucker Gates, has one child at the school.

Meanwhile, at City Language Immersion Charter school in Arlington Heights, kids will be doing cleanup around the neighborhood after a morning climate assembly. “It’s like a mini-field trip with signs and cleanup stuff,” says Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects costume designer Alix Friedberg, who has two boys at the school. “It’s a big issue for us. We are really excited and concerned about the future of our country and I think that it’s really important to have kids start early to realize the importance of recycling, of sustainability, of our environment.”

Adds actress Sarah Jane Morris, who also has two kids at CLIC, “I asked one of my sons, ‘Why do you want to do this' and he said, ‘Because I care about the earth and I don’t want it to be destroyed by the time I’m 45.’” Morris added that her son told her that one of his classmates made a sign to carry that reads, “Make Teslas Cheaper.”

Smaller events are taking places all around Los Angeles County as well, with satellite strikes happening in such places as Topanga Canyon, Pacific Palisades, Pasadena, Eagle Rock, the San Fernando Valley, Malibu and Atwater Village and at such schools as Pepperdine University, the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies and Los Feliz’s John Marshall High, where L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner are expected to attend an on-campus climate event.

CAA Foundation exec Kropa, who’s planning to attend the Pershing Square action with her 14-month-old daughter, said that she’s participating because, “The ruination of our natural resources is an issue across all of humanity —we have to stand together and show unification toward progress quickly, for worldwide systems change. I don’t think anyone truly has set out to destroy the environment, but other motivations — taking shortcuts, making money, not planning for the future — have taken precedence for a long time, and we are gathering now to show that time is over.” She adds that, “It was hard for me to decide to have a child because of the state of the planet.… I want her to see that everyone is part of solving this.”