Under rainy skies, students and staff weigh impact of the climate


As we grapple with the consequences of climate change, it shows just how vital the role of rain in our ecosystem is. Merideth Irby, a librarian at Berkeley High School who organized a climate justice and activist training last year, has been interested in climate change since college. For her, rain is always “a nice change of pace.” She added that “we are in the driest period of California’s drought right now.” When Irby moved here fifteen years ago, “it rained all the time.” She said, “The climate is changing, and incoming climate catastrophes have shifted the climate so much that we are not getting enough rain.”

The lack of rain has depleted water supplies below the surface, as well. “Our underground aquifers are really low. We are not even close to ending the drought,” said Irby. The water comes from things like snowmelt, rain and more. “I think individual efforts are really important, but big businesses are utilizing our water resources. Don’t use plastic straws and other admissions from big companies,” she said. For example, the farming, ranching, and meat industries use a lot of water, so not eating foods that use less water is a good way to conserve. Irby is critical of golf courses in particular. “We need away with all the golf courses, they use a ton of water for all that grass. Especially in palm springs,” she said. 

During the climate justice and activism training last year during Earth Week, where all different classes contributed projects, she was the staff lead for the Youth vs the Apocalypse club in 2022. “I was really inspired (to get involved in climate action) by the students who were pushing for more climate related initiatives at BHS, and were pushing the district to sign the Climate Literacy Resolution,” she said. The climate literacy resolution was passed in 2021, which was an agreement that the Berkeley Unified School District made to teach about climate change and global warming awareness in schools.

Alice Lohmann Rahal, a freshman at Berkeley High, agrees with Irby. She grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, where it rains heavily around every two weeks. She says that rain is important for Brazil’s environment, and Brazil experienced drought recently, just like California. 

“Most people live in urban cities in Brazil, but there are also a lot of farms so the rain is important for the produce,” Lohmann Rahal said. Since October 2023, the Amazon rainforest and multiple towns around it have been in an emergency drought. 

According to Lohmann Rahal, Brazil started to take extreme measures to deal with the drought around 2008. These measures include closely monitoring water usage, decentralizing water resources management, and more.  

The Green Team is a club at BHS, and, according to Lola Leeman, a member and senior at BHS, it is “very environmentally focused.” The club advocates for change and raises awareness about issues related to the climate crisis. “Rain is important in an on-and-off drought season. It also helps prevent wildfires and keep rivers and reservoirs flowing,” she said. For now, Green Team is “focusing on city planning and education,” according to Leeman. 

Leeman has been interested in climate change and global warming for a few years, though she’s had to manage some climate-related stress. “It is important for me to not read too many bleak headlines to avoid eco-anxiety and burnout,” she said. 

On the topic of rain, Leeman shared, “I’m not really a sunshine person, and rainy days can provide a chill sense of ambience. Plus, it’s fascinating how all sorts of creatures like slugs and worms come out when it rains.”