By Quintez Brown —
Students from all across the country are demanding change. Critics have labeled their ideas as radical, unrealistic and costly, but their voices must be heard.
On Feb. 22, approximately 40 students and faculty members rallied on campus for a climate justice strike. They voiced their support for the Green New Deal in Congress and called out the University of Louisville for its lack of funding toward the Climate Action Plan.
Their rally was a part of an international #FridaysForFuture movement. This movement began when 16-year-old Greta Thunberg protested for climate justice outside the Swedish parliament.
Her activism sparked student mobilization all across the world. Tens of thousands of students have demonstrated in more than a dozen countries including Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United States and Japan.
Students understand that they cannot allow their futures to be juggled in the hands of politicians and corporations. Every young person should be inspired to stand up and demand change from those in power.
Here at U of L, senior public health major Avalon Gupta Verweibe joined the Sunrise movement, a national youth-led group focused on climate change.
Gupta Verwiebe and urban planning major Valerie Magnuson co-organized the strike on campus.
She and other students are organizing and fighting for climate justice from day-to-day.
Gupta Verweibe used the strike to add emphasis on the intersections and relevance of the movement.
“It is an issue extremely relevant to our generation that intersects with many other issues such as the refugee crisis, racial justice and class justice,” said Gupta Verwiebe.
It impacts us all.
“There are issues in Kentucky that are not being spoken about on a national stage but need to be because it is our future.”
Students voiced their anger towards U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky for his lack of voice on the issue.
“Mitch McConnell refuses to have an open discussion with his constituents, his mailbox is full. This is the only way we can communicate with him,” said Gupta Verweibe.
Before the rally on U of L’s campus, students spent a week rallying outside of the Louisville offices of the Senate Majority Leader.
“He is forcing a vote on the Green New Deal as a way of getting it out of the way so he doesn’t have to worry about it; he takes so much money from oil and coal companies that it wouldn’t do too well for him,” said Gupta Verweibe.
Students who care about their futures and the climate should join the movement and continue applying pressure on the University and our political representatives.
Last fall, U of L denied the Sustainability Council’s proposal to become a Commission. The commission status would’ve granted more funding to support U of L’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) and provided more connections with President Neeli Bendapudi and other administration offices across campus.
The former university president James Ramsey signed the CAP into effect in 2010. Since 2017, the budget for the CAP has been cut twice.
When news broke that U of L denied the Council commission status, the [Assistant to the] Provost for Sustainability [Initiatives] Justin Mog spoke on how the CAP has had funding issues.
His proposed solution: student support and Student Government Association involvement.
Our futures are directly impacted by climate change. We can sit idly and wait for bickering politicians to create a solution for our future. We are the change that we seek.
Fight for change in whatever capacity in which you’re able. If you’re eligible to vote, then vote. If you can send letters to your representatives, do so. If you can sit and sleep outside their offices, do so. If you have to strike, then go on strike.
Whatever you decide to do, do not hesitate. Decision makers will ignore you and your future if you sit back.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California recently told students advocating for the Green New Deal that she didn’t have to listen to them because they were too young to vote for her.
They were not too young to fight for their future.
At Friday’s rally on campus, Manual high school students walked out of class to join the protest on campus. They did so despite a suspension threat from school administration.
The courage and strength that these high schoolers show is representative of the students all over the world. Students have decided that “Enough is enough.”
You do not have to be of voting age to understand the urgency of now and the difference between right and wrong. You do not have to be of voting age to fight for your future.