UA students walk out in protest of President Trump's climate change vision
Kashja Iler, a first-year grad student in the school of natural resources and development, and Diego Martinez-Lugo, a senior majoring in environmental studies and geography, hold up a sign during the climate walkout on Jan. 23. The walkout is one of many around the country, organized by 350.org.
UA students protested President Trump’s climate change vision outside of Old Main this Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Organized by Students for Sustainability and spearheaded by environmental studies and geography senior Diego Martinez-Lugo, who is also chair of the Energy and Climate Committee for SFS, the walkout sought to raise climate awareness and urge the UA to take action in making the campus more eco-friendly.
SFS is a student-led component of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, meant for students looking to improve the UA community through sustainability awareness and advocating for green energy. The event was part of a national protest organized by 350.org, wherein students from across the country marched out of class to protest President Trump’s climate denial and the UA’s supposed lack of climate change action.
“We’re coordinating this in solidarity with all the other [participating] universities to reject Trump’s climate denial in order to show students don’t support president Trump,” said UA student Stephanie Choi, co-director for SFS.
The event was attended by several dozen people, including SFS members and passerby who were pulled in by the event. “We’re trying to urge the UA and President Hart to take action on converting to green energy,” said Sara Bertram, an environmental sciences, molecular and cellular biology and physiology major. Bertram is also the chair of the Environmental Health Committee in SFS. Mary-Madison Philips, a sustainable built environments major and SFS member on the Energy and Climate Committee, explained that they are “trying to pressure the UA to reduce emissions and make the switch to green energy.” Both of these students, alongside numerous others, skipped class to voice their requests. Many participants offered petitions for passersby to sign in support of climate action.
Back in October 2015, the UA signed Second Nature’s Climate Commitment, an agreement to make the campus a more eco-friendly environment. This included reducing carbon emissions and funding research on carbon neutrality and resilience. As time passed, however, few of the goals listed had been achieved, and SFS saw the need for protests and rallies to urge the UA to take more steps toward environmental protection. While reports have been made on progress, the SFS has found them unsatisfactory.
“I want to see some initiative,” said environmental studies and gender and women’s studies major Rebecca Van Rhee, another SFS member. “They’ve signed the agreement and have done nothing.”
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As the event kicked off, Martinez-Lugo stood up and gave a speech about climate change and what needs to be done by both the country and the UA.
He was followed by Dan Millis, program coordinator for the Sierra Club Borderlands Grand Canyon chapter. The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots movement dedicated to protecting the environment and also a partner with SFS.
“Climate change is the crisis that everyone needs to act on,” boomed Millis through a megaphone. He urged onlookers to check the twitter accounts @azbeyondcoal and @sc_borderlands to learn more.
After the speech, other students chimed in.
“The students organizing this are passionate to fight climate change,” said math major Ben Champion. “The UA has plans that aren’t robust enough.”
“We want the UA to lead on climate change action and fund research on the subject,” said Remy Franklin, a geography graduate student at the UA who was invited by Martinez-Lugo to attend. “Acting at the local levels is more important than ever before,” he added.
Another of Franklin’s demands was for the UA to divest its endowment of fossil fuel holdings.
“There needs to be student-led movements and a continuance on call to climate action,” Martinez-Lugo said. He explained how the SFS has been reaching out to UA administrators in order to make more discernible steps toward climate action.
On the subject of Trump’s climate denial, protestors urged onlookers to call U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to take direct action.
As the protest went on, UA President Ann Hart walked past and waved at the crowd.
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