LIHUE — When Sabryn Rudinoff visited Anini Beach a few weeks ago, she planned to just spend the day “chilling.”
But when she got there, plans changed.
“I saw all this trash,” the teenager said. “No, can’t chill today.’”
She picked up all sorts of plastics and Styrofoam in the water and on the sand and rocks.
“It’s really, really sad to see such beautiful beaches get trashed,” Rudinoff said Friday.
She was one of about 100 people gathered at the Lihue Civic Center Rotunda, where Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami welcomed students and other stakeholders in support of the Global Climate Strike movement.
Before the 30-minute program was over, many had signed the Global Climate Strike Community Pledge. It called for people to recognize climate change is happening, understand the threats it represents — such as sea level rise, more hurricanes, flooding and heat waves — and to be part of a solution.
“This is really close to my heart,” said Rudinoff, adding that it’s about paying attention to the impacts of what people do and taking action to protect the land, air and sea.
“Choices, choices, choices,” she said as rain began pouring down midway through her talk.
Kawakami said he was pleased to see so many young people getting involved.
“I just have to say that seeing all of you here makes me very happy,” he said.
The mayor recalled that when he was young, people told him to wait his turn, that he didn’t know enough yet, that he was too young to make a difference.
But the future — this generation’s and the next and the one after that — is at stake, he said.
“So don’t let anybody say you’re too young, you’re too inexperienced,” he said.
Kawakami said the county is taking many steps to protect the environment, including updating its community plan using the latest sea level rise information; reducing energy use for the fifth straight year; investing in electric and hybrid vehicles and many are undergoing climate action resilience training to help determine its next steps.
“Of course, there is much more that needs to be done but we’re committed to working together with all of you to create positive change,” he said.
Several high school students were there.
Sophia Stein, 14, said she wanted to remind everyone that “we’re not the only ones on this planet. There’s animals, too, that are suffering for our mistakes.”
Leilani Kass, 13, thanked people for being there and “taking a stand for our planet.”
Raising awareness of climate change, she said, is huge.
“A lot of people don’t even know this is happening,” Kass said.
Leilanna Wong, a recent Kapaa High graduate, said the young generation is “ready to make changes.”
She promised to do everything in her power to protect this world and called on others to do their part.
“Your actions affect not only yourself, but all the people around you,” she said.
James Stearman, a Kauai Community College sustainability fellow, said collaboration is critical to reducing climate change and said it was heartwarming to see councilmembers and the mayor take this issue seriously.
“This is beautiful,” he said.
Kawakami said he hopes students who signed the pledge return to their schools and “let it not just be a piece of paper.
“This is much more than just me as a mayor signing a pledge,” he said. “If we’re going to make this happen, everybody has to come together and work together.”