While those in the highest offices are debating — or staunchly denying — the veracity of climate change, two kids in Berkeley already have enough science classes under their belts to know the truth, and what they need to do about it.
Brothers Thibaud Risz, 12, and Andre Risz, 11, are the founders of Kids for Science, an organization recruiting Berkeley students for the March for Science in San Francisco on Saturday, April 22. The young activists say their generation will bear the brunt of the environmental destruction happening today.
“We feel that when our government puts opinion before science, it puts our future at risk,” said Thibaud, who is in seventh grade at King Middle School.
The March for Science is a national series of rallies, including demonstrations in Berkeley and San Francisco celebrating science and calling for science-based policymaking, as well as support for scientific research and education.
The Risz brothers began encouraging their peers to participate in the march in February. They made sure every Berkeley Unified School District principal knew about their project, and sent their message out over the morning announcements at King. The principal there, Janet Levenson, has helped spread the word to other families.
“I am always excited when students become passionate about a topic and find the strength to make their voice heard,” Levenson wrote in an email. “Thibaud has a lot of positive energy and he understands that it is our youth who are the future leaders.”
The Kids for Science Facebook page has earned some support from international followers, Thibaud said. And when the San Francisco march organizers got wind of the Riszs’ efforts, they deemed the boys official youth ambassadors.
Thibaud and Andre were inspired to take to the streets in the name of science after participating in the Women’s March in January. They were bit by the protest bug and realized they and their friends could play an important role.
“When adults march, it’s more of a Democrat-Republican thing,” Thibaud said. “When we march, it’s more about our future. This will really impact us if we don’t do anything about it.”
The March for Science is a non-partisan event, but it comes on the heels of an executive order lifting a temporary ban on coal mining. President Donald Trump has promised to reverse many Obama-era climate policies and slash the Environmental Protection Agency staff.
Those actions have not escaped Thibaud, who said he thinks Trump and Scott Pruitt, director of the EPA, should explain why they ignore facts “when 97% of scientists agree climate change exists.”
Thibaud and his dad will be marching in San Francisco, where speeches begin at 11 a.m., followed by a march at 12:30 p.m. and a science fair from 3-6 p.m. UC Berkeley students are organizing a local event, which begins with a rally at 4 p.m. at Sproul Plaza and a march at 5 p.m.
“Today’s political environment bears witness to unprecedented attacks on truth, science, and our planet,” the UC Berkeley organizers wrote in an announcement of the march. “Bring your lab coats! Bring your rally signs! We gather to defend our planet and our institutions.”