Zach Denes (left) and Grace Xu

Zach Denes (left) and Grace Xu  led a ‘climate strike’ rallying for change at Centennial Plaza in Peoria on Dec. 6

Dozens of students and community members gathered at Centennial Plaza in Peoria on Friday, Dec. 6. Called a “climate strike,” the event rallied support for legislative action to combat climate change in the West Valley.

Grace Xu, 16, and Zach Denes, 20, are the Peoria and Glendale leads of the Arizona Youth Climate Strike group that aims to enact change for climate justice.

AZCYS had strikes throughout the state at several city council locations on Friday, including Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott, Tempe and Flagstaff as part of the Global Youth Climate Strike organization to demand change on the same day.

Denes, a student at GCU, said progress to slow or stop global warming begins with cities like Peoria and Glendale, which are the largest in the area.

“We’re wanting the cities of the West Valley to declare climate emergencies because we want them to do something about the climate crisis. And then after that the cities will hopefully enact climate action plans,” he said.

Other demands include a rapid decarbonization of the city’s energy and a halt on the fossil fuel infrastructure. The group also urged cities to adopt a climate resilience plan to protect all residents, especially those in low-income communities, from the effects of climate change.

The two leads, along with a slew of student volunteers around their age, have worked tirelessly since around the start of November to get the word out through social media, news outlets and even printed fliers throughout regular haunts like local Starbucks shops and other youth-frequented businesses.

Xu, a student at Mountain Ridge High School, said the time spent has been effective, but the fight did not stop after the strike ended.

“The strike itself is more symbolic. We’re going to be reaching out to the actual cities themselves and getting people to register to vote and understand exactly what they should do to help the issues,” she said.

Denes said the battle is uphill. After hours of work to get people to show up, it is even more difficult to get people to register to vote and put in the effort on polling days, he said.

However, he said he has noticed that other youth are inspired by the AZCYS’s activity, and not only will hopefully be active in climate change events but also other social and political causes they care about.

 “They’re very happy to see other young people doing these types of things. It kind of makes it relatable,” he said.

“And there’s a short window to get people involved so we want to do as much as we can now. Hopefully that way we can start to make a change now on something so important.”