Students and community members joined protesters around the world in the Youth Climate Strike on Monday at noon in Speakers Circle.
The Mizzou Energy Action Coalition and the Columbia chapter of the Youth Climate Strike organized the protest at MU in order to raise awareness of climate change on campus and to put pressure on world leaders to address climate issues.
“We want to be in solidarity with the youth,” Haley Gronniger, president of MEAC and junior public health and environmental studies major, said. “And, while we are young people still, we are living in an adult world, and it’s really important for people like us to support younger students and kids in their fight to be heard.”
The day began with four marches led by MEAC preceding the strike at 8:50 a.m., 9:50 a.m.,10:50 a.m. and 11:50 a.m., with the last march leading into the strike itself. These marches were planned in order to raise more awareness of the strike’s purpose, Gronniger said.
The marches started at Speakers Circle, then went through the MU Student Center, up Hitt Street, through Lowry Mall and ended back in Speakers Circle.
Gronniger led chants with a megaphone and participants carried signs through the march route.
These signs carried various slogans including “Save the planet,” “Climate action now!” and “Environmental degradation: brought to you by Capitalism, patriarchy, and White Supremacy [sic].”
Gronniger also aimed to hold MU accountable for its environmental impact.
“We do have a few of our chants that are directed at the university,” Gronniger said. “The university claims to be extremely sustainable, and indeed they are more sustainable than a lot of colleges, but they are not true leaders because they’re still investing in climate change by investing in fossil fuels directly and indirectly as well.”
When the final march arrived at Speakers Circle at noon, they did so led by Rory Butler, MEAC member and junior physics major, chanting “Pollution and exploitation will not be solved by corporations.”
The rally in Speakers Circle had a wide-ranging group of speakers, including MU students and local Columbia residents.
The first to speak was freshman Barb Kuensting. She listed 11 reasons why climate change is a crisis, representing the UN’s assessment that there are 11 years left to change course on climate change.
“We must create a future for our children,” Kuensting said. “Not a better future, a future. We can start by divesting from fossil fuels, which [MU] currently has $4 million invested in.”
Other speakers, such as representatives from Mizzou College Democrats and Rock Bridge High School Young Democrats urged attendees to tell their representatives to support the Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic congresswoman from New York and Sen. Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts.
At this, junior Dalton Archer, who advises the Mizzou College Republicans as a member of the American Conservation Coalition, arrived. He said that he was representing Mizzou College Republicans.
"I was hoping to hear about solutions, and none were given," Archer said. "I am also disappointed because the College Republicans were not invited to this event, and I know some of us would've wanted to be a part of it."
Organizers told Archer that he could speak publicly if he liked to, but he did not take them up on the offer. He did, however, have a long conversation with event organizer and MU senior Haley Gronniger. During this conversation he said that many conservatives are also environmentalists and that he would have appreciated an invitation having been extended to the college Republicans.
One of the final speakers was Mark Haim, a local activist who protested the Vietnam War in the 1960s with the group Students for a Democratic Society. He compared the ultimately successful efforts to shift public opinion of the Vietnam War with the effort that will be needed to combat climate change.
Butler said that the marches and the strike were a good way of bringing people’s attention to climate change.
“Over winter break, I started learning more about how serious this problem is,” Butler said. “I was like, ‘I can’t do nothing anymore. I have to start doing anything.’ So that’s when I got involved with MEAC, and I’m just really hoping that in coming out here, I show people that this is an issue that’s important enough for people to do this stuff.”
Mitchell Feyerherm, a senior studying soil, environment and atmospheric sciences, is also a member of MEAC. Feyerherm said the Youth Climate Strike is an event that they started this year and it was inspired by Greta Thunberg, a swedish youth activist who started the first school strike for climate change
“I don’t think it is going to change things immediately, but I hope more and more people are interested and involved in events like the coalitions,” Feyerherm said. “The more people we can get to get involved in these types of events, the university is more likely to take concrete action in addressing climate change issues [on campus].”
Edited by Emily Wolf | email@example.com