“Our identities are inextricably bound to this land, everything that we are and everything that we need comes from the land itself,” Michigan State University social relations and policy junior Stevie Quijas said, speaking into a cold wind from the steps of the Michigan Capitol building.
“To disrupt this land or our connection to it is to disrupt our identity. This is exactly what settler colonialism has done,” he said.
Quijas was one of several speakers to address the crowd on Friday, March 25, during a climate strike organized by student organization Sunrise MSU. Speakers led the crowd in environment-related songs and chants and discussed environmental issues. Multiple speakers discussed how Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by climate change.
Quijas is of Anishinaabe descent.
“When you have been dispossessed and confined to reservations, the vulnerable population only becomes more vulnerable,” Quijas said.
Quijas also touched on how Indigenous knowledge on climate and environmental issues can be leveraged to address the climate emergency.
This kind of knowledge has seen increasing recognition by the scientific community-this year’s climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, acknowledged the merits of this Indigenous knowledge for the first time.
Ross Fisher, an organizer at Lansing advocacy group Oil and Water Don’t Mix, spoke on the controversial Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline and making the transition to clean energy. Fisher referenced past environmental catastrophes at Enbridge sites, like the Line 6B spill, which was the second largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.
Cindy Estrada, Vice President of the United Auto Workers Union discussed how ethical labor and employment is important in the pursuit of environmental justice.
“You’re not green unless you’re treating workers with fairness, unless you’re giving back to the community,” Estrada said. “It’s not just the air we breathe, but it’s also the jobs that workers get … and whether they’re safe jobs, whether they’re good paying jobs.”
Other advocate groups attended the event in addition to Sunrise, including the Greater Lansing Democratic Socialists of America and the student-run Young Communist League.
The event was held in conjunction with Fridays for Future, a youth-led climate strike movement inspired by activist Greta Thurnberg’s school strikes for climate.
Sunrise member Jesse White said the event also advocated for a state version of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, proposed legislation meant to combat climate change.
“Seeking to put people over profit,” White said. “We say we should stop bailing out these big banks and fossil fuel corporations, invest back into the communities of our nation.”
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