Climate Strike held at SU
On Friday, September 20, an estimated four million people worldwide, primarily students, gathered to protest the lack of action towards the climate crisis. Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s 2018 protest, in which she left school to protest outside the Swedish parliament, there were climate strikes organized in 4,500 locations, including one at Southwestern University.
At the strike, there was a space for people to register to vote in Williamson county, coloring pages, signs made by members of Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge (SEAK), and a form to contact your representatives run by citizen climate lobby.
The event was primarily organized by Nicole Rajtak, a sophmore and SEAK officer, despite getting a concussion during the planning. She explained why she organized a climate strike at Southwestern rather than going to the one held in downtown Austin.
“Honestly, because I was determined to attend this year and driving all the way to Austin seemed to defeat the purpose of it being for the climate,” said Rajtak.
The speakers for this event included SEAK co-presidents, Dominique Rosario and Saul Zuniga, first year and SEAK member Nafisa Nazeer, Southwestern professors Dr. Emily Northrup, Dr. Joshua Long, and Dr. Melissa Johnson, and a guitar performance from senior and SEAK officer Abbey Lloyd. A video was of Severn Cullis-Suzuki’s 1992 speech to the UN’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was also played.
Rosario and Zuniga spoke about the role of students and student organizations in activism, and Nazeer gave harrowing statistics and facts about climate change and reminded that, “we can do better.”
Dr. Northrup, a retired SU economics professor, spoke about policy solutions to climate change, in particular the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019, H.R. 763. This act would institute a carbon fee and a carbon dividend, and Dr. Northrup aimed to inspire hope through reminding that there are people that support policy to fight against climate change.
Dr. Long, chair of the environmental studies major, similarly gave a hopeful speech focused on the role and action of the newer generations. He reminded that “generation z” makes up roughly 32% of the population, and that has power, encouraging students to use their power and vote.
When asked what else Rajtak thought that Southwestern could do to fight against climate change she answered “I could say the obvious of compost, recycle, etc but I think there’s two steps that are more important. First, take note of everything you use and use it mindfully. I think we forget that the first step is to reduce rather than reuse and recycle. The other most important step is to vote. Lobbying and contacting representatives is important but voting is arguably the most direct way to cause change in government. Politicians base their careers around getting elected and re-elected and we need to show them what the next generation of voting adults views as important issues.”
The climate strike ended with a student led chant, “there is no planet B,” and with the attendance of students, professors, and members of the georgetown community, it was hard not to hear.