EVERETT — Tears dripped off the tip of Daniel Schwenk’s nose as he lay on the pavement Friday. Face down in front of the Snohomish County administration buildings in Everett, his head rested on crossed arms.
Along with about 200 others, Schwenk “died” for 11 minutes.
As the courthouse clock struck noon, each demonstrator picked their spot, lay down, got as comfortable as possible and closed their eyes.
“I’ll die next to you,” one woman said to her friend as she descended.
“Bye everybody,” said a bystander.
The demonstration highlighted that scientists believe climate change must be addressed within 11 years, organizer Pam Kepford said.
As the minutes ticked by, Schwenk thought about the political environment surrounding climate change.
Drums, representing a pulse, beat in the background.
“Sometimes I feel kind of hopeless,” the Bothell man said. “Because advances are made then things get turned right back around. But then being in middle of this many people responding in the middle of the day filled me with hope.”
Environmental organization 350 Everett organized the “die-in” in support of the thousands of young people who gathered in Seattle and worldwide Friday to demand action against climate change.
Among those students was Grace Lambert of Henry M. Jackson High School. She helped organize strikes in Seattle, Kirkland, Olympia, Wenatchee and Bellingham.
Many of the students had to take unexcused absences from school to participate.
“It’s showing just how important and dire this issue is if students are willing to strike from school and deal with the consequences of that so many times in a year,” Lambert said. “It shows how concerned we are with our future and this planet.”
The protests were started last August by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, 16. The movement’s leaders have a list of demands. It includes cutting greenhouse gases in half by 2030, stopping all fossil fuel projects, and declaring climate change a national emergency.
“Global Climate Strike” events have ranged from about two dozen activists in Seoul using LED flashlights to send Morse code messages calling for action to Australian demonstrations that organizers estimated were the country’s largest protests since the Iraq War began in 2003, according to the Associated Press.
The student movement inspired Kepford to help organize the Everett die-in.
“The grown-ups got together and decided we needed an adult action to complement what the students have been doing,” she said.
While many Snohomish County students couldn’t make the commute to Seattle, some made it to Everett for the die-in.
ACES High School teacher Gina Westrich came with a handful of students from the campus in south Everett.
Westrich originally scheduled the outing as a field trip, with school vans for transport and five teachers chaperoning. But the day before the die-in, the Mukilteo School District announced it wouldn’t support the trip and any student absences for the event would be considered unexcused, she said.
“We just said ‘Well,’ we’re going to go anyway,’” Westrich said. “It’s important. It’s important to all of us.”
Senior Brianna Mizerski skipped her last class of the day to make it.
“Our generation really needs to take control so our kids and our grandkids can have a future,” she said. “That’s why right now we’re leaving school to show that this is important and there needs to be change.”
Clarissa Leyva, a senior, said she thinks her dad will support her decision to miss class for the event.
“I know he’ll think I’m doing the right thing,” she said. “That’s all that matters. And to myself, too, I know I’m doing the right thing.”
Some students caught a transit bus to make the event.
“It’s for our future,” senior Layla Aguirre said.
“If we don’t do something now, it’s just going to be worse,” junior VivianaAguirre added.
Some demonstrators at the die-in wore signs telling what caused their “death.”
“I died when the Earth became too hot to grow food,” one sign read.
Stanwood resident Paul Miller wore one that said, “We died when our farmland was flooded by sea-level rise.”
He’s lived in the Puget Sound area his entire life, and watched it decline around him.
“I’m concerned the Sound is only getting worse,” he said. “I can see the changes. There aren’t as many fish, whales.”
Other demonstrators donned facts about climate catastrophes, like the July 2018 wildfire that killed 94 in Greece.
As demonstrators rose from the ground outside the county administration building after their 11 minutes, they distributed a set of demands for the elected officials working inside.
Those demands included declaring a state of climate emergency, ceasing all fossil fuel projects including the North Seattle Lateral Pipeline in Snohomish County, supporting rapid transit options on Highway 9 and U.S. 2 and creating a climate commission of diverse citizens.
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.