The Bay Area’s Greta Thumberg just happens to be a Redwood student

Sydney Steinberg

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I’ve been going vegan, reducing my plastic consumption, getting my parents to buy an electric car. In such an urgent situation, we don’t have time to continue taking little actions. We need to start stepping up and fighting the bigger institutions and corporations who are ruling our planet because if we don’t change them now, then the carbon emissions will continue increasing,” freshman Sarah Goody said. 

Sarah has sacrificed some common aspects of adolescence: attending activities after school, spending the weekends with friends and, at times, attending school on Fridays. Instead, she spends her time working with various organizations to stop climate change, and her efforts have paid off.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Goody
Sarah protests in San Francisco as part of the Fridays for Future movement.

On Sept. 20, Sarah and the organization Youth vs. Apocalypse gathered a crowd of 40,000 people, most of whom were students, in front of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s office in San Francisco. This demonstration was part of the Fridays for Future movement and was the most successful Bay Area strike yet in terms of participation. The youth-led protest focused on advocating for the Green New Deal, a resolution which outlines a plan to prioritize climate change, and urges large corporations to use more sustainable practices. However, the strike was not Sarah’s first experience with large-scale environmental activism. Since middle school, she has made drastic lifestyle changes, such as going vegan and attending weekly climate and social media-based digital strikes in an effort to fight climate change. 

Sarah first became interested in climate change after learning about it in middle school. She later attended Youth Empowered Action (YEA) camp which helped her develop skills to become a successful social justice activist and leader. Since then, she has been a prominent Bay Area youth climate activist. She takes her work seriously, as she believes the climate change movement has the potential to dictate her future.

“The climate crisis threatens to end humanity. If we don’t take immediate action right now, we are not going to have a future that is safe and livable, and our society will end. The urgency of this movement and how much it will impact me and my future was what really interested me in getting involved,” Sarah said.

Now, Sarah is involved in multiple climate change prevention organizations such as Youth vs. Apocalypse, Greening Forward and Climate Now, the latter an environmental activism group for Bay Area teens which she founded. Outside of school, much of Sarah’s time is spent on phone calls and completing work for these organizations. She also travels to the city approximately once a month to participate in Fridays for Future strikes, such as the event of Sep. 27, which she helped bring to the Bay Area after being inspired by fellow youth activist, Alexandria Villaseñor. 

“Because climate change is such a disruption, we need to show that in our own way and by skipping school. That’s the most disruption we can make because we could just skip our after-school activities, but no one’s really forcing you to do that. There’s no law that says you have to go to swimming after school, but school is required. I think [Fridays for Future strikes] are just breaking the norm and causing some disruption,” Sarah said.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Goody
Leonardo DiCaprio reposts an image on Instagram from Alexandria Alexandria Villaseñor’s account featuring Sarah.

Charles Ogden, who counseled Sarah at YEA camp and currently works with her through the organization Greening Forward, is inspired by her dedication to fight climate change and looks up to her as a strong activist.

 “I find it inspiring because we need her ideas… and young people’s activism around these issues. I think if you asked her, she’d say she gets a lot out of it and feels a greater connection and purpose. Some people search a lifetime for that sense of belonging and purpose, and for those that are able to get a sense of what that feels like, even at age 15, that’s incredible,” Ogden said.

The sense of belonging described by Ogden has had a larger impact on Sarah’s life than what observers may assume from her outgoing exterior. In elementary school, Sarah experienced depression brought on by difficult social and health-related circumstances. Focusing on environmental activism made Sarah feel as if she served a greater purpose and helped her transition out of depression. 

“I went through a part of time where I was struggling a lot with depression. I got to the point where I almost committed suicide. But through activism, I was kind of able to save myself. Once I had something to look forward to and say I had something to devote myself to, I felt like I was getting out of this dark spot,” Sarah said. 

Sarah still struggles with anxiety today but considers herself much more mentally stable as a result of activism. Sarah also credits her parents, James and Christine Goody, for supporting her both mentally and in terms of her work. Since she began advocating for reducing climate change in sixth grade, her parents have made personal lifestyle changes in accordance with Sarah’s, such as altering family meals to be vegan-friendly and driving to Berkeley multiple times a week. 

James and Christine’s only condition when it comes to Sarah’s work is that she keeps her grades up.

“We’ve been very supportive. We’re fine with what she’s been doing as long as she is keeping her grades up and taking care of what she needs to take care of for school, then if she wants to work on her activism, that’s great,” James said. 

Sarah is one of several prominent young individuals who have taken the climate crisis into their own hands. She looks to other youth activists such as Greta Thunberg and her friend Alexandria Villaseñor for inspiration and also urges other young people to become involved. 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Goody
Sarah is interviewed by ABC7 News during a climate change protest.

“I don’t think I will truly feel successful until I see a green future, but in ways the actions I am taking our building up to that and I’ve been able to see that through other youth that I work with like Greta Thunberg or Alexandria Villasenor who have been able to change the way this movement works to where youth are leading it and showing that this is such a demanding issue and not something that we can take for granted,” Sarah said.

Unfortunately, as youth activists have received more publicity, they have also received more backlash. However, Sarah’s parents hope that she will continue to tackle climate change head-on.

“There’s been a lot of backlash lately against some of the youth activism…. people have been really negative about it and frankly don’t understand it. How can you be mad at somebody who wants to change our world for the better,” James said.

As climate change continues to become more threatening, leadership in any form becomes more essential. Sarah urges her audience to take immediate action in order to avoid a disastrous future. 

“The climate crisis is already happening. It’s not something in the future, It’s

happening. It’s just going to continue getting worse to a point of no return… I think people like to refer to [the point of no return] as the climate crisis or as climate change, but climate change is happening now, it shouldn’t be thought of as this futuristic idea,” Sarah said.