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Students walk out to demand MSU, policymakers act against climate change

March 15, 2019

Dozens of Michigan State students walked out of their classes Friday to call for the university to strengthen its actions against climate change.

The strike was MSU's iteration of the Global Climate Strike, a day designated by activists to raise awareness for climate change prevention. Similar walkouts happened at schools and universities worldwide. At MSU, a crowd of about 60 people gathered in front of the Hannah Administration Building at 11:11 a.m. to address university officials and Michigan policymakers.

Representatives of Sunrise Lansing and the MSU Young Democratic Socialists for America, who co-organized the strike, spoke to the crowd. Sunrise Lansing representative Shelby Krohn said the strike went "really, really well."

"All the people here were super inspired they want to take action on climate change, and we've given them an opportunity to do that," Krohn said.

The mass strikes on March 15 were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg. She rose to prominence for her activism in December 2018, where she spoke before the United Nations' COP 24 conference about a need to keep Earth's environment sustainable for young future generations like hers.

Environmental economics sophomore Brendan Randall said he joined the strike because climate change is a generational issue.

"It's important for us youth because this is really something that is going to affect all of us down the road," Randall said. "It's really important to let these lawmakers know that this is our future and we need to take control of that."

Randall said he has made excuses in the past for not paying attention to climate change and its effects. Going to the strike was a way to put his hat in the ring.

"I've made a lot of excuses in the past for not standing up for what I believe in," Randall said. "I feel like now more than ever is the time to put my two cents in and stand up for what I believe in."

His two cents include support for a Green New Deal, loose terminology pertaining to sweeping legislation that aims at reducing carbon emissions in the United States. Other students and faculty at the MSU strike voiced support for such a deal and pointed to recent efforts made in Congress by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

"I know it's hard, but I mean a Green New Deal is a great start," Randall said. "It'll make it in writing that this is an issue and this is something that we need to talk about and discuss and prepare for."

Social work sophomore Madeline Sarno was working on a research paper when she decided to attend the strike.

"I've always been all for helping the environment and it's a little bit crazy that we haven't really been doing anything," Sarno said."It's really important and I want my children and my children's children to be able to live in an environment that I have."

Sarno suggested solutions such as carpooling and mass transit as ways to reduce carbon emissions.

"If we were able to have things more close together," Sarno said. "It'd make it easier not without having to drive everywhere, so there'd be less carbon emissions from cars."

Hillarie Gibbs — a friend of Sarno's and a student at Olivet College — said her school didn't have anything planned for the Global Climate Strike because they're on spring break.

"But we've already implemented a lot of stuff to really help the environment," said Gibbs, a bioecosystems and environmental science sophomore. "Our campus is super close together. Everything's within a five-minute walking distance."

Solutions suggested by Gibbs included implementing solar energy, upgrading bus systems, riding bicycles and taking electric scooters, like Birds or Limes, to classes.

Krohn added that individuals feeling hopeless about climate change and the political state surrounding it could join activist groups to find an avenue to address it.

"I can personally say that I haven't felt so hopeful and been doing something until I joined organizations like Sunrise," Krohn said. "If you're looking to join anything, or if you've been feeling hopeless about climate change or you just want an avenue to do something, this is what you're meant to do."

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Over in Lansing, another Michigan Youth Climate Strike took place. Students from elementary school to high school skipped classes to rally at the Capitol steps.

Students, teachers and members of the Lansing community discussed clean drinking water, carbon emissions, the proposed Green New Deal and environmental justice.

Michigan resident Tiffany Stewart was joined by her son, Teague, who is in the first grade and skipping school. She said her son has learned about respecting the planet and this rally was another opportunity to learn about the environment.

“(To show) when we don’t have government stepping up to make the issues, if you’re feeling passionate about something, your voice needs to be heard,” Stewart said.

Teague said he was excited to skip school.

“Today it’s all about the youth and it’s very exciting that we have this generation that’s passionate, stepping up to the plate to clean up the older generation’s mess,” Stewart said.

When high levels of lead and copper were found at her school in Detroit — as was the case in two thirds of Detroit schools — high school student Brooke Solomon got her peers involved. As she spoke in the rally in Lansing, she said at the time her school board wasn’t answering questions. On Oct. 3, 2018, she helped to organize school strikes to remind the school board that without its students, they lose money.

“My friends and I deserve better. We deserve to go to school and feel safe. We deserve to go to school and feel like human beings with clean drinking water. We deserve all the support and resources that white suburban schools get.”

Solomon said she and her friends were threatened with suspension and schools attempted to kick those organizing strikes out of the National Honor Society. She said “Nevertheless, we persisted.”

“Intersectionality is everything, you can’t fight for a part of something, you can’t fight for only one community. It’s all or nothing. We all live together or we all die together.”


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