Climate Strike

I don’t know what it will take for enough people to wake up to the dire state of our world’s climate change to save us. But it surely was a ray of hope to see our youth showing up and crying out for change at the Climate Strike yesterday. . .  and in no uncertain terms!

I was at the youth rally in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square, attended by folks of all ages from groups of younger school children to grandparents. I arrived just as the march from the SR Junior College arrived at the square in a massive surge which filled the street for many blocks. I heard the count – 2000 of them!


The traditional Aztec dancers in the feathered headresses led the way and then performed a ceremonial blessing as the entire crowd formed a massive ring around them.


I was there, along with my friends Bettina and Carole to participate by doing reportage sketches of the event.


I wandered around trying to find a vantage point and preferably one in the shade, since the temps were climbing up to the 90’s. I got some of the backdrop roughed in and realized I’d have to stand and do some sketching in the sun or standing in the thin shade of a telephone pole! But little by little I filled in pieces as I found them.

While standing in the crowd a woman about my age came by with her sign and said to me, “I’m not liking this agism thing going on!” I guess she had probably been demonstrating on Earth Day and such for much of her life and didn’t like the invasion of the young folks. Meanwhile I was thinking this was the best sign possible!

One of the speakers, all of whom looked like high school and college age (and one middle schooler), said “We were raised by the generation that said ‘we won’t be there then.'” (meaning when life becomes unbearable on this planet)

Of course I’m one of them, who at least in my private thoughts have heard that selfish statement come up. But we all need to hear these young people and feel their distress as our own!


At the Global Climate Summit march last October we interviewed active participants and sketched their stories to provide a different kind of coverage of the protest. A collection of these climate stories was created.  You can also see some of my sketches and pictures from the event in San Francisco here.

My friends and I were hoping to make contact with some of the young speakers in order to do some sketch stories. So we hung out by the podium and were lucky to “enlist” two high school seniors who were charismatic speakers and leaders in the youth movement, Natasha and Annabelle. And as a bonanza they turned out to be good friends of many years as well.

friends So sitting in the generous shade of a tree, Bettina interviewed them while I sketched portraits and Carole sketched on fabric, which will become a fiber art  protest piece. The girls warmed to the task, and we were charmed.


We asked them to speak about their personal fears about global warming, but they were also very tuned to their “mission” about climate change.


This was not the first time I’d heard young people say that they felt it was not fair for them to bring children into this world. That’s particularly hard for me to hear as a someday hopeful grandmother, but I certainly know where it’s coming from.

One can get quite depressed thinking about what we human beings have done and are still doing to our planet. But these youth know they don’t have the option to be inactive, and they are highly motivated to vote. So look out climate-deniers! The youth wave is coming.


A Sol 2 Sol talk and Pop up Show

After the climate march I stayed in the city for a couple more days of city wandering/sketching, then went home (to Sebastopol).

A couple days later I returned to S.F. to do some more! The actual Global Climate Action Summit was going on at the Moscone Center, with Governor Brown and Al Gore and 4500 delegates from around the world. I couldn’t get into the actual summit, but wanted to dip my toe in the action. So I met some other sketchers in the Yerba Buena gardens across from Moscone Center. A group of marchers were congregating in front of the Contemporary Jewish Museum across the street.

Loretta Bolden2

I honestly didn’t know what people and climate stories I would find as I walked into a group of people dressed in yellow t-shirts who were chanting and then breaking for lunch. The group was Sol 2 Sol, participating in the “It Takes Roots Solidarity to Solutions Week to spotlight frontline community solutions to the interlinked economic, democratic and climate crises currently threatening humanity.” They were there ” To discuss place-based solutions that serve to simultaneously decarbonize, detoxify, demilitarize and democratize our economy through critical strategies such as Indigenous land rights, food sovereignty, zero waste, public transportation, ecosystem restoration, universal healthcare, worker rights, housing rights, racial and gender justice, and economic relocalization.” That sure covers a lot of ground!

When I approached Loretta I didn’t know any of this, just that she looked like someone I would like to meet and who probably had her own interesting story to tell.


She had come all the way from Cherokee, N.C. (Geeze I hope they’re OK with Florence still on the rampage!) to support her people. I learned that it is not a reservation but part of the Qualla Boundary, a term I had not heard before which signifies that it was purchased by the tribe in the 1870s and subsequently placed under federal protection.

Loretta of course had concerns about threats to the health of their lands, but was impressed also by wider climate changes. Her group had toured Santa Rosa just the week before to see the devastation wrought by our Tubbs fire! It was moving to hear her reaction as she recounted what she had learned on that tour about the climate-wrought disaster in my own community!

Needless to say I found it difficult to sketch the portrait of this fascinating lady out in the bright sun while also interviewing her and trying to make notes of what she said! Bless her heart for hanging in there with  me!

That evening we hung a pop-up show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum of about 200 climate story portrait sketches by urban sketchers.


What started as just an interesting idea by our fearless leader Laurie Wigham turned in one month into a project of great interest not only to the sketchers in the Bay Area but to so many of the participants in the climate summit-related efforts who were anxious to have their stories heard and and recorded.


The show has been taken down now, but you can see the sketches on the SketchingClimateStories website! And if you’d like to get involved in this form of story-telling sketching, and you live in the Bay Area, please let me know and I’ll try to get you connected.

ImpactofClimateChangeCA2_SusanCornelisThe next morning I attended another event about “The Impact of Climate Change on California” at City College, which was another opportunity for people to share their experiences. I had pictured a town hall meeting type event where I would sit discreetly on the side, but it was a small classroom with several organizers and a handful of participants seated in a circle including us four sketchers.


With respect for those who do not speak English, everything was translated into Spanish. The meeting was led in by a facilitator from the group Sustaining All Life, an international grassroots organization working to end climate change within the context of ending all divisions among people.


I enjoyed participating in the personal sharing exercises, which gave me the opportunity to talk about our community’s trauma with the firestorms. It also made the reportage efforts more challenging as I crossed the line from reporter to participant.

Seated to my right was Ruying, an electrical engineer/climate scientist and Summit delegate from Beijing, China, who was hoping to gain some insight into the experience of Californians. She spoke with enthusiasm about the joint efforts of China and California in dealing with climate change. I suspect that this meeting was eye opener for her!

More Climate Stories

I just got home from S.F. last night after a pretty exciting week of activities around the Global Climate Action Summit. Time to get caught up with some posting.

Back to last Saturday’s Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice march to Civic Center Plaza. My first sketch when I arrived was a hurried one of Berkeley students painting design outlines for the colorful circles on the streets in front of City Hall.


And here’s some more of my climate story sketches, this one done from the table under the tents, where interested marchers were pulled in by the colorful sketches they saw and a chance to tell their own story.


Lia is from Hawaii and a student of environmental studies in San Francisco. She spoke of the fragility of the eco system in Hawaii and her feeling that S.F. was a great place to get involved because of its progressiveness.

The hardest thing in a quick 10 minute portrait is to get the age right. It seems I’m always making younger people look older (as in this one), and older people younger.



This lovely environmentalist is starting young. Kallan is 14 and had come from her home in Annapolis (I assume she meant Maryland) because she feels so strongly about the issues of climate change. She has already been involved in MotherEarthProject, Parachutes For The Planet, circular works of art that are a metaphor for bringing the world back to a safe place, and are used to get communities to commit to implement sustainable activities.



She was dressed as a butterfly! A gentleman who was watching me sketch was very disconcerted that I’d made her look older and told me I should fix it! Since that was impossible, I ignored him and told Kallan that I’d made her look more mature because she is clearly an “old soul”, which is what I believe. I mean to have such a clear purpose at the age of 14. . .! Inspiring.

school teacher

I was on a run of young women! Gail Gallagher is a brand new teacher of 9th grade biology. “It’s a big moment,” she said, “and I want to be a part of it. We need to get the momentum back.”

That’s the rest of the sketches I was able to do at the march event. I didn’t actually march myself but was at the Civic Center Plaza before and after. There were tree people on stilts and native dancers that rattled as they walked and and tossed their magnificent feather headresses. There were songs and other music and around 4 pm I just walked around enjoying the circle designs.





See more Climate Story Sketches on our website.

Next: More climate activities, sketches and a pop up art show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum!

Global Climate: Protect the Sacred

When I arrived at the Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco last Saturday morning the streets were blocked off for the Rise For Climate, Jobs, and Justice march and groups of people were painting the streets in colorful designs illustrating our need to protect our precious planet and its people.


I started right away sketching the liveliest group, and found myself wishing I could pick up one of the big paintbrushes and join in. (Of course they were using earth-friendly non-toxic paints that would wear away quickly when traffic resumed.)


Agana here seemed to be everywhere and directing the show, so I talked to her and found out that she was/is the designer of this circle piece and a member of Few and Far Women . She offers her considerable artistic talent in murals, film, jewelry and more!

I got the feeling right away that this day was no procession of gloom about global warming (although lord knows there’s plenty of that!) but a celebration of our planet and people and the desire to make us all wake up to the threat of global warming and figure out how we can help protect all that is sacred.

Our group of urban sketchers Sketching Climate Stories had a table under the tents along with all the other groups represented at the event. Our mission was to sketch and listen to the stories of people who had gathered for this event; to ask them how global warming was effecting them in their home community; and to find out what they are working on. No sooner did I show up at the table, then I was connected with my first story sketch.


I sketched Kamurra while while Cathy interviewed her. Kamurra introduced herself as a 75 year old who had been marching for 50 years and would continue to show up for these causes as long as she lived.

Kamurrah By SusanCornelis

I barely got some of her words written down before the next person showed up, ready to be sketched.


Barbara Chan from El Cerrito had fashioned a hat with recycled materials including the plastics her group is working to ban: “Skip the Straw”.


Our Sketching Climate Stories table was getting really busy at this point with the marchers arriving and more sketchers on hand. The finished sketches were immediately placed in clear protective sheets in binders so that passersby could see them. And many of them stayed to be sketched.

At this point a polar bear arrived. She had clearly lost her way or maybe given up trying to find any ice! Another lifelong champion of environmental causes, Sharon had driven down from Laytonville for the march.


At this point things were moving pretty fast and I didn’t get much of the interview points down. Unable to draw with the right side of my brain and at the same time, write with the left side I guess!


(note the bear nose/mouth around her neck!)


Just to give a flavor of the day. . .these circles on several blocks around the Civic Center were 50 feet across. This one says “Immigration is a Right!” and behind it you see the music amplifiers and City Hall.


Later in the day, when the crowds had cleared, you could get a better look at the art! I have more sketch stories to share, so stay tuned.

Tomorrow evening the Contemporary Jewish Museum is hosting a pop up exhibition of the climate story sketches. The Museum is located on the opposite side of Yerba Buena gardens from the Moscone Center, where the Global Climate Action Summit is happening today through Friday. I’ll be there doing some more Climate Story Sketching!

The SF Chronicle did a great article on the project. See it here.

Sketching Climate Stories

Next weekend I’ll be participating in “Sketching Climate Stories” at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The Bay Area urban sketching groups are joining together to document the  Climate Summit and the people who are coming to it. We’ll be doing portraits in pictures and words, telling the stories of how individuals and their communities have been affected by climate change—and how they’re working on solutions.

2 Interview/sketch pieces, 8.5X11″, pen, water soluble pencil, w/c on w/c paper

So I got together with my sketch buddies this week to practice interviewing and sketching in pairs. The three of us had lots to relate about how Global Warming is affecting our community here in the post-Tubbs fire era.

Bettina’s comment: “The threat of fire was always more theoretical before . .now the danger can’t be ignored. It’s right on our doorstep!” could have been made by just about anyone here in the Santa Rosa and other areas. And when asked what she is working on, Carole responded that she is using her art to “bring awareness to social issues like Climate Change”.

And if you’re looking for ways to do the same, read on here.

We’ll be starting at the Rise for Climate march on Sunday and dropping in on different events and actions during the week. We have applied for press credentials to do sketch reportage of the GCAS events in the Moscone Center.

The main groups involved are the SF Bay Area Urban Sketchers, a chapter of the international Urban Sketchers organization, with 220 chapters around the world, and SF Sketchers, a San Francisco-based meetup group with nearly 3,000 members.

We will be posting our sketches online in the blog SketchingClimateStories.org (currently under construction), a Facebook group, Sketching Climate Stories and on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #sketchingclimatestories.

The sketches themselves will be shown at several locations during the week, including a popup show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on their Green Thursday evening. We are planning a larger show of all the sketches after the Summit and are considering ways that the climate stories could evolve into a long-term project, documenting the effects of climate change on frontline communities. (I would add here, that one of the frontline communities will be here in Sonoma County where we’ll be commemorating the first anniversary of the Oct 2018 firestorms this year with events by many local groups.)

Here are Inks to currently scheduled events (this will change as more events are added)

Practice session at Arch Art Supplies, September 1

Reportage sketching at the march on September 8

Popup show of the sketches at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Green Thursday, September 13

It’s all pretty exciting and constantly evolving. Feel free to contact me if you wonder how you can get involved, either in the S.F. event or in October for our Sonoma Co. events.