Earth Day protesters want San Jose to do more for the planet

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With a severe drought and the potential for early wildfires affecting Santa Clara County, Earth Day has protesters rallying to change the way people interact with the planet.

Shouting “Carbon change is not a lie, do not let our planet die,” members of Sunrise Movement Silicon Valley marched from San Jose City Hall to rally at Plaza de Cesar Chavez on Earth Day. About 100 people, many of them part of the Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strike 2022, walked to bring awareness to environmental advocacy and justice.

Sunrise Movement is demanding local governments take steps toward passing a Green New Deal that includes addressing food insecurity and waste, prioritizing local agriculture, ensuring renewable power and a host of other issues.

San Jose youth at a climate action strike in front of City Hall on Earth Day, April 22. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Sydney Ernest, 15, said the city needs to listen to scientists who are doing the research. San Jose needs to implement local measures to encourage more use of public transit, better water systems and green electricity.

Other protesters, including 25-year-old Thao Lệ, targeted housing and how the city should address it moving forward.

“I think we should pass the Community Opportunity Purchase Act to preserve housing because it’s a lot more sustainable than constantly building new housing,” Lệ told “Housing justice and climate justice are interrelated. When people are displaced and have to commute further for jobs, it causes more traffic and environmental pollution, especially for communities of color who are most impacted by gentrification.”

Thao Lệ and Italia Salvaje at the climate action strike in front of San Jose City Hall. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Speakers at the event included state Sen. Dave Cortese, Assemblymember Alex Lee, district attorney candidate and Deputy Public Defender Sajid Khan, and indigenous and youth activists from South Bay Indigenous Solidarity, South Bay SNaHP and South Bay Progressive Alliance.

Cortese said San Jose and Santa Clara County have been leaders in the state with the elimination of natural gas and the county being 100% renewable.

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“I think the cities and county can eliminate dirty energy,” he told “We need every household in every city using clean energy on a day-to-day basis.”

In November 2020, chanting “No justice, no sleep,” members of Sunrise Movement marched through a neighborhood early in the morning to protest outside Mayor Sam Liccardo’s home. They sought to capture political backing for measures to prevent climate change before the November election.

Through Climate Smart San Jose, the city aims to be carbon neutral by 2030, rather than 2050 like other major cities. San Jose will either offset all carbon emissions to reach a net-zero, or eliminate carbon emissions entirely.

Although some are skeptical of the city’s ambitious goal, it has already required all-electric energy in new construction, solar readiness in non-residential buildings and electric vehicle charging stations at residential buildings and hotels. San Jose is also looking to densify its downtown core, creating urban villages near public transit to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled.

The Climate Smart plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 80% below 1990s levels by 2050. In February 2019, San Jose Clean Energy started servicing homes, decreasing carbon emissions by 35% in 2020. San Jose Clean Energy’s new solar, wind and battery storage projects are expected to produce enough renewable energy annually to power 300,000 homes by the end of 2022.

“If there is one issue that needs to unite all of us, it’s climate change,” said Peter Ortiz, who is running for City Council in District 5. “It’s crucial youth elevate their voices and those in public office take time to listen.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].

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