Students Strike to Save the Planet

Emery Malachowski, Staff Writer

Approximately 60 students and several professors attended a half-hour climate strike on September 20th. The strike was organized by members of EcoHouse, a residence hall committed to more sustainable living. The organizers were showing solidarity with the high school climate strike, organized by 10th grader Hannah White, (who was inspired by the Sunshine Movement), and the Global Climate Strikes happening all over the world. EcoHouse was supported in creating this event by Environmental Coalition (a campus climate advocacy group) and Climate Advocates (a campus environmental lobbying group).

The organizers of the strike split the students who attended into approximately six groups, each with a leader from EcoHouse, and each group talked about commonly under-discussed environmental issues. These topics included healthcare, indigenous people, starvation, poverty, and war. EcoHouse members explained that they hoped the event would create momentum in students who believed these issues were real and important, but were not yet participating in advocacy or the campus conversation.

The conversation in most of these groups centered around policy and big business issues, but most of the “solutions” discussed were things that individuals could do in order to cut back their personal impact on the environment. Climate strike attendee Sarah Borgardt reminded students that “social movements work,” and that culture changes and “voting with your dollar” could be impactful both on campus and in a global sense.

I was able to speak to members of EcoHouse (including Elke Arnesen, Elisha Serotta, Hannah Buckwalter, and Erin Tansimore) and attendees at the event to get a bigger picture of their perspectives on climate advocacy and their goals for the event. In the past, EcoHouse and the other environmental groups have had a range of advocacy, including for clamshell containers rather than disposables in Baker and Muddy, bringing back the reusable coffee cups in Baker, organizing sending letters to senators and voting registration, and helping out at Camp Whitepine, a property nearby where tree-sitting advocacy takes place.

The EcoHouse members I spoke to also hope that the administration will pay attention to environmental concerns on campus, and respond more positively to projects EcoHouse or the environmental clubs have already tried to implement. These include reverting back to composting our excess food from Baker, which EcoHouse members say we used to do at the Juniata farmstead, but have ceased to do since budget cuts removed the jobs of the student workers who used to till the composted soil.

They would also like to see the new learning commons design (the planned Beeghly Library renovation) to be LEED Certified. A LEED Certification would require the building to reach certain expectations of green design and sustainability.  They said when they previously asked about our current buildings being LEED Certifiedthe administration told them the certification itself was too expensive. EcoHouse members are cautious about accepting this explanation, but say that if the certification itself is too expensive, that the college should at least “prove to us” that the buildings meet sustainable standards.

There are other issues EcoHouse say they’ve advocated for, but have not gone anywhere with the administration. These include creating gardens, asking for alumni support on green projects, and divesting money from fossil fuels and other unsustainable practices. EcoHouse members say they hope the administration will use its power as an institution to at least voice support for eco-friendly projects, including endorsing policies like “the carbon tax dividend.” They say that they believe the administration is worried about scaring off potential students, but that they want to attract students to the school who care about the environment, and that “if it’s important to us it’s important to prospective students.”

Several professors, including Polly Walker and Lynn Cockett, let their classes out early to attend, and attended themselves. Professor Yohn, Instructor of Environmental Science and Studies, says that advocacy like this climate strike is important.

“Politicians don’t create political will, they respond to it,” he says, “So it’s important as constituents to make your political will clear.”

The Juniatian will be following this article in upcoming issues with interviews and information about Juniata College’s current sustainability plans and perspectives from administration.

 

 

BEHIND THE STORY

  1. Why did we report on this?
    • The Climate Change Strike was a public event on campus orchestrated by Juniata students. It relates to a larger, constant, and important global issue, and was timely coverage considering the Global Climate Strike that was occurring at the time. It was important to report both on the event itself and on the implications for our community and College, as well as set a precedent for continuing coverage of our sustainability efforts on campus.
  2. How did we get the information to report on this?
    • We reported on this mainly at the scene, and quotes were gathered from our sources both at the time and after the fact. We also did some preliminary background research on the Global Climate Strike, whose website you can find online for more information.
  3. How can the reader get more information on the topic covered?
    • Readers can view the Global Climate Strike website for more information on this topic or contact Emery with questions.
  4. Did we miss something?
    • Let us know! Contact Emery (malacec16@juniata.edu) with any further questions, comments, or concerns about this article, or to suggest further articles about this topic.