Credit: David Salahi

November 29, 2015. In cities all over the world, hundreds of thousands of citizens gathered at climate rallies to show their support for immediate climate action.
These rallies took place ahead of the U.N. Paris talks (COP21), wherein leaders from more than 190 nations are convening with the goal of a universal, binding agreement on climate.
One such climate rally hosted by Orange County for Climate Action (OCCA) took place in Irvine, where over 100 people of all ages and backgrounds attended. UCI Climate Fellow Kimberly Duong* was a speaker for the rally. Her speech is reproduced below.

Let me rewind 20 years ago to the year 1995, when I experienced my first brush with environmentalism. I was 4 years old on a road trip with my family. We were driving from Sacramento to Los Angeles for a trip to Disneyland. As we entered L.A., I saw, for the first time, an ominous grey cloud looming over the city like a monster. I asked my father, “What is that big dark thing in the sky?” and he responded nonchalantly, “It’s just smog. It’s always there.” Nobody else in my family was concerned. This memory really stuck with me…and it highlights an important lesson I want to share with you all.
Inaction is the greatest obstacle we face today.
We know that human-induced climate change is no longer up for debate. The scientific consensus is clear and the impacts are already visible worldwide. We have heard the call to action for years and it is only growing louder. So what can we do about it? How do WE, as individuals, address inaction in Orange County, in ourselves and in others? We must convey the fact that climate change affects everyone and that each person has an influence on our climate.
We must first become aware of our carbon footprint based on our daily routines, from our grocery list to our transportation choices. Thinking about these decisions helps make the problem tangible.
Secondly, we must understand the connection between our decisions today and the outcomes tomorrow. Children today will inherit the home their parents leave behind. This is not only a global issue, but also a personal one.
Lastly, we must educate ourselves about the impacts and the solutions. Increased heat waves and drought will become more and more common in Orange County. But we can improve our future by producing more solar energy, transitioning to hybrid and electric vehicles, and voting on policy measures that reduce carbon emissions.
I’d like to point out that the air quality in Southern California has improved greatly in the last 20 years. We now face another issue that requires attention and immediate action. It may not be as obvious as a dark, grey cloud in the sky, but I am confident that we will overcome inaction and pave a more sustainable path forward.


Credit: Mindy Schauer, The Orange County Register

Click here to see The Orange County Register’s article on this rally.
*Kimberly Duong is a PhD student at UC Irvine in the Department of Civil Engineering, specializing in water resources management. She serves as a Climate Fellow for the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, an effort across all 10 University of California (UC) campuses to become carbon neutral by the year 2025. Her role is to help revise UC Irvine’s Climate Action Plan and strategize the school’s plan to reach net zero carbon. Kimberly is also president of Climatepedia, a student group dedicated to climate change education, outreach and awareness.