A protestor among a large crowd holds up a cardboard sign that says "Denial is not a policy." Photo by Christopher Plechot Binder.

LC Students Join Worldwide Climate Change Protest

Since the release of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) ‘Summary for Policymakers’ in October last year, there has been an increased sense of urgency to take action to combat climate change.

The release of this report has sparked a youth-led climate justice movement across the world. Students in over 2,000 cities and 100 countries across the world joined forces on March 15 in the Global Youth Climate Strike.

The IPCC Summary stated, “Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present, but lower than at 2°C (high confidence). Impacts on natural and human systems from global warming have already been observed (high confidence).”

Scientists previously forecasted that humanity would feel the effects of climate change when the global temperature rises 2 degrees Celsius. However, this report states that we would actually feel these effects when the global temperature rises 1.5 degrees Celsius. We are predicted to reach this level of warming by 2030.

The strike was inspired by 16 year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who skipped school to sit on the steps of Sweden’s parliament with a handmade sign encouraging policy-makers to act. Her individual action sparked a wave of change.

In Portland, students of all ages gathered in front of City Hall with signs encouraging policy makers to take immediate climate action. Then, students marched in the streets of downtown and along the waterfront. As the strike took place in the morning, many students skipped their classes in order to attend, attesting to the profound fear and anxiety towards the future. Over 50 Lewis & Clark students participated in the march.

Students Engaged in Eco Defense (SEED) worked to spread awareness about the strike and coordinated the time and place for students to meet up to take the Pioneer Express downtown. SEED member Ariel Moyal ’19 spoke on past difficulties the organization has had with student participation.

“We’ve had challenges in the past getting people energized and organized,” Moyal said. It seems like lots of people are passionate or angered about climate change, but (it is) harder to get people to do things, and make concrete steps.”

SEED members dreamed of filling the Pioneer Express with students attending the march. This dream became reality. SEED member Evelyn Hunsberger ’19 expressed satisfaction over the amount of LC students who attended the strike.

“I’m speechless, we filled the Pio.” Hunsberger said. “It’s so powerful to see how many LC students chose to come to City Hall to push for climate justice.”

Rose Mayer ’21 was one of the many LC students who attended the strike.

“I think it’s really admirable that a bunch of students are out here, and I want to support them,” Mayer said.

Many organizations attended to show their support for the strike, the Sunrise Movement being one of them. Summer Dean, a senior at Portland State University and a communications coordinator for Sunrise PDX, spoke on the mission of Sunrise.

“Sunrise is a movement of young people to get the fossil fuel money out of politics, and as of recently it has been to push for a Green New Deal and climate justice in general, because we have run out of time to act on this issue and the youth are feeling the most effects of this,” Dean said.

Stephen Hanley ’20 also attended the strike.

“I think that this really speaks to the fact that for most young people, climate change is the most important issue right now,” Hanley said. “I think that we forget that we have 10 years to stop it entirely and every minute we don’t act it gets worse. I hope that policy makers see this and realize what they need to do.”

Joining an organization, such as Sunrise and SEED, is a great way to get involved with the fight for climate justice and sustainability. If interested in getting involved with Sunrise, email info@sunrisepdx.org or connect with the group on social media. They are also having their next hub meeting on Apr. 27, which is open to anyone under the age of 35 who is interested in securing a sustainable future. If interested getting involved with SEED, email  seed@lclark.edu.

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