Beyond the Global Climate Strikes
Reily Risley '21
On Sept. 20, 2019, residents of the Greater Richmond Area took to the streets to bring attention to the issue of climate change. Many students chose to attend the march, instead of going to class, to demonstrate their concern for planet earth.
Chants at the march concerned the rising sea level, the usage of fossil fuels, and carbon emissions. Moving from Franklin to Broad Street, the strike was high enough in attendance to take up much of the roadway and, at some points, stopped traffic.
Protestors marched to City Hall, where they had several speakers discussing relevant climate issues. Chris Wiegard, the Virginia state coordinator for the Citizens Climate Lobby, Richmond Chapter, said, “You are entitled to be angry that my generation failed. I certainly am. But I urge you to use love as well as anger in the path that you find, because love can move bigger mountains than anger can.”
Other speakers emphasized the importance of voting, since we as voters have the power to put someone in office who will champion our environmental cause.
Randolph-Macon’s own Hannah Beauregard attended the strike. On campus, Hannah is the president of Students for Environmental Action (SEA); at the strike she was just another protestor. On campus, Hannah felt that it was her job to help advertise the strike, which was important to her because she has seen herself as an advocate for the environment since fifth grade.
In her words, she “resonates very strongly with nature and the earth,” so participating in the strike for Hannah was “another way of showing gratitude for the world.”
Climate Strikes on Sept. 20 not only took place in Richmond, but all over the world.
According to the Global Climate Strike website, “the week of Global Climate Strikes is on par with the 2003 anti-Iraq war protest as one of the largest coordinated global protests in History,” with over 7.6 million people attending strikes over the course of the week.
Beyond the 7.6 million people who went out on the strikes, the movement was also supported by celebrities. Chris Hemsworth posted a video of himself at the strike with a caption that was meant to uplift participating students. “Taking to the streets and demanding an end to the age of fossil fuels” and “Coming out in droves like Children of The Corn with far better intentions,” were some of the things the actor posted.
Hemsworth's video caption also offered a simplified 3-step plan for reducing individual and collective carbon footprints: “Step 1 - move away from the burning of fossil fuels, no more new oil, gas, coal projects (that’s you Adani Mine) Step 2 - move toward 100% renewable energy generation and exports by 2030. Step 3- fund a just transition and job creation for all fossil fuel workers and communities as this transition occurs."
Leonardo DiCaprio, who founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation with the mission to protect wildlife, has posted various photos in support of the strike and its mostly young participants, who “led the world in striking,” he said. Their efforts are remarkable because “[these] six million individuals did more than just walk out of their schools and places of employment. They took a stand and said enough is enough. The time for inaction is over,” said DiCaprio.
In addition to celebrities, the power of young voices in dealing with environmental issues is demonstrated by public figures like Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist who has spoken at the New York City headquarters of the United Nations about the world’s climate crisis. At the 2019 Climate Action Summit Greta said, “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”
When large-scale, international changes seem unlikely to go into effect, it can be inspiring to look at the work our students do in their everyday campus lives. When interviewing Hannah, she heavily emphasized treating the earth as our collective home.
She believes that part of her position as president of SEA is to encourage other members of the club to start projects of their own. On the R-MC campus, Hannah believes it is not just up to the students or the administration to do their part because “we have to work together to do the work.” The question is, can we improve our treatment of the world, or will we follow in the footsteps of those before us? According to Hannah, “We’re all learning about how to be better [but it comes down to whether] you choose to be better or not.”