A Lord Voldemort look-a-like. (Courtesy photo)

A Lord Voldemort look-a-like. (Courtesy photo)

Youth activists are reminiscent of the young heroes in the Harry Potter stories

Last Friday, about 2,000 San Francisco Bay Area students left school and marched down Market Street.


Last Friday, about 2,000 San Francisco Bay Area students left school and marched down Market Street to demonstrate their anger at governments’ failures to protect their future. They were joined by over 1.4 million young activists in over 300 cities around the world, carrying signs calling for environmental action and comparing climate change to the fictional villain in the Harry Potter series, Voldemort.

In many ways, these youth activists are reminiscent of the young heroes in the books by J.K. Rowling. They are struggling to define themselves in a world facing many dangers, such as environmental degradation, school shootings and political upheaval. The stories of Harry Potter, which coincide with the main character’s seven years as a student at the magical school of Hogwarts, seems to be influencing the younger generation’s response.

They are bravely rising to the challenges by protesting gun violence, voting in historic numbers and moving the needle on clean energy, environmental justice and plastic pollution. Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, whose dedication to the climate movement has earned her a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, summed up her generation’s sentiments at the United Nations conference last December.

“We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future,” she said. “They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.”

Thunberg is right. Youth-led demonstrations are successfully creating change. The protests and sit-ins led by the Sunrise Movement, a nonprofit led by young people uniting to stop the climate crisis, were instrumental in getting federal lawmakers to support the Green New Deal. Last July, as President Donald Trump nominated additional former fossil fuel and chemical lobbyists to positions of power, Bay Area kids led a march in San Francisco.

While their persistence inspires a great deal of hope for the future, it’s also sad that children feel compelled to take on these battles. Despite efforts from faith-based, health and environmental organizations, our national elected officials have largely failed to act on climate change for decades. Similarly, our leaders, including President Donald Trump, have only offered complacent thoughts and prayers after horrific school shootings.

It’s not surprising that the protestors marching down Market Street last Friday were angry. Like young heroes in Harry Potter, youth feel compelled to assume control because the government has failed. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida left 17 people dead, a viral post on Twitter remarked on the parallel between Harry Potter and the real world.

“You know, when I said I wanted the real world to be more like Harry Potter I just meant the teleportation and the magic stuff, not the entire plot of book 5 where the government refuses to do anything about a deadly threat so the teenagers have to rise up and fight back.”

Organizations, like the Harry Potter Alliance, are helping fans challenge their love of the books and magic into activism. Since its founding in 2005, the nonprofit’s volunteers have dedicated themselves to a wide variety of causes, including advancing equality, gender equity, racial justice, education and the environment. Regarding climate change, volunteers acknowledge it is real and intersectional, and support refugees, impoverished communities and others whose lives are jeopardized by adverse effects.

This month, the Harry Potter Alliance and the Sunrise Movement are teaming up to help Potter fans take direct action to fight climate change. Fans wishing to get involved can check out the organization’s website for more information.

“I think a lot of young people who grew up reading Harry Potter saw an example of young people living in a world that needed saving,” Katie Bowers with The Harry Potter Alliance told me. “The people who they were supposed to trust weren’t doing what they needed to do, so the young people decided to take it in their own hands.”

As a mother of two little children who are not old enough to go to school, let alone read Harry Potter, I am so thankful for the anger, determination and influence I saw at the strike and march last Friday. Young activists are fighting for my children – and all children’s – future. Perhaps they will defeat Voldemort and we can all live happily ever after in a world without climate change.

A sorting question from a reader

I visited a TV store to update my tech box and a representative told me I could throw old and unneeded remotes in my recycling. Is this right? – Gerri Wilson

Unfortunately, no. Although remotes make our lives much easier, disposing of them is not simple.

First, there are the remote’s batteries, which are considered household hazardous waste and could contaminate soil and water. San Franciscans who live in a single-family home or small apartment building under six units, should put loose batteries in a clear plastic bag and place it on top of the black bin on collection day. Residents of larger apartment buildings should place batteries in the orange batter collection bucket your manager should make available.

Remotes are considered electronic waste. Recology, San Francisco’s recycling provider, offer residents one annual free pick-up. Goodwill and other recycling companies may also take non-working e-waste. The San Francisco Department of Environment encourages San Franciscans to visit RecycleWhere.org for more information.

You’ve got questions. I’ve got answers. Email sorting questions to bluegreenorblack@gmail.com

Robyn Purchia is an environmental attorney, environmental blogger and environmental activist who hikes, gardens and tree hugs in her spare time. She is a guest columnist. Check her out at robynpurchia.com

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