On Friday, Sept. 20, students, faculty and Auburn residents participated in the global climate strike, a movement demanding that politicians sufficiently act to solve the climate crisis.
In Auburn, demonstrators marched down Haley Concourse shouting call-and-response chants.
“What do we want?” the crowd chanted. “Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!”
Amy Strickland, program manager for the Office of Sustainability, participated in the protest.
Strickland has been following the movement for climate action since the 1990s.
“I really care about the earth and our future,” said Hannah Gilbert, junior in professional and public writing.
Sarah McCown, sophomore in wildlife ecology and management, said she thinks there has been more attention brought to climate change within the last year. She said she heard about the global climate strike a few weeks ago because of the activism of Greta Thunberg, an internationally recognized Swedish environmental activist.
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“Of course I wanted to participate,” she said.
Sara Derington, senior in global studies, said she has been following Thunberg for a while. However, she said she has been aware of the threat of climate change from a young age.
“With Greta, I definitely feel like she’s built a huge momentum,” she said. “I think her sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to cut out the CO2 emissions from planes … I know that was hugely inspiring for me.”
On Thunberg’s way to a United Nations summit on zero emissions, she avoided flying on a plane, instead choosing to sail across the Atlantic on a zero-emission yacht.
“I think that helps spark and grab the world’s attention,” Derington said.
Michael Kensler, director of the Office of Sustainability, said the office did not organize the event, but they sent out an email to promote it.
He said he thinks student perception of the issue has increased in recent years and is still growing.
According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 67% of adults believe global warming is happening, though only 53% believe it is caused mostly by human activities.
In Lee County, 63% of adults believe climate change is happening, 49% believe it is caused mostly by human activities and 47% believe scientists agree global warming is happening.
The people are debating whether the burning of fossil fuels causes climate change, but the scientists aren’t, Kensler said.
“It’s a policy issue, not a political issue,” Kensler said. “It’s a human health and wellbeing issue. It’s a health of the planet issue.”
Kensler said the climate change debate mirrors the debate over whether cigarettes cause health risks such as cancer. Tobacco companies disputed scientific findings that smoking was linked with cancer
According to the Scientific American, the oil and gas company Exxon was aware of climate change as early as 1977 but refused to publicly acknowledge the issue and promoted climate misinformation.
Kensler said some people are hesitant to support sustainability efforts because they believe it interferes with capitalism and freedom.
“I’ve been in this business since the mid-eighties,” Kensler said. “Either I’m a part of that grand cabal or I’ve been duped by the literally thousands of people I’ve worked with on these issues for all this time.”
On Sept. 23, Thunberg addressed the United Nations Climate Action Summit.
“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear,” Thunberg said. “How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”
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