Tri-campus community to participate in Global Climate Strike
Andrew Cameron | Friday, September 20, 2019
Students from the tri-campus community will march from Notre Dame to downtown South Bend on Friday, joining other protesters to demand government action to curb climate change and environmental degradation. The local demonstration, run by the South Bend hub of the Sunrise Movement, is one of hundreds of protests planned around the world for the Global Climate Strike, occurring from Sept. 20 to Sept. 27.
Notre Dame senior and Sunrise Movement South Bend organizer Greg Campion said the upcoming strike would be “a watershed moment for the planet.”
“We have an existential crisis here,” Campion said. “We know that the cost of inaction is huge in the long run and that serious action is needed now. A little more specifically, the message of the global strike is, ‘Hey, governments and politicians, for the most part, you’ve been beholden to special interests and have not been treating this crisis with the urgency that it demands. That’s not acceptable, and we need to do better.’”
Started in 2017, the Sunrise Movement is a national youth movement that advocates for government action on climate change and works to elect proponents of environmental action to political office. The movement boasts over 300 community-led hubs, including one in South Bend.
While the demonstrations address a global issue, the South Bend demonstration will also push for action at the local level, Campion said.
“Our action here in South Bend is going to focus on is urging the South Bend government, particularly Mayor Pete [Buttigieg], as he’s running for president, to take the climate change resolution that they passed last spring and move forward with implementing that,” he said. “It’s great to go on record and say ‘Hey, we resolve that this is a problem, we need to do something about it.’ But if that’s all we do, we’ve done nothing. We’re urging Mayor Pete to show the country just how serious he is about climate change on the national scale and [to] put his money where his mouth is and start implementing the resolution that was passed last spring in our city here.”
In April, the South Bend Common Council passed a climate control action plan outlining steps to be taken to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.
The Global Climate Strike is led, in part, by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, Campion said. Beginning in August 2018, Thunberg began skipping school to protest outside the Riksdag, the Swedish national legislature, demanding that Sweden comply with the Paris Agreement and reduce carbon emissions. She has since gained widespread media coverage, speaking at conventions and demonstrations in numerous countries to demand governments take action to address what she calls the “climate crisis.”
The movement is focused on promoting political change, Sunrise Movement South Bend organizer and Notre Dame sophomore Duncan Donahue said.
“Climate activism is important because it’s sort of a challenge to this neoliberal understanding of what politics can do in the realm of the environment, because it challenges the idea that what we as a society do to the environment is a sum of individual choices,” Donahue said. “It’s not. It’s the result of structures, which condition people and put people in positions to make certain choices. They only give people certain options and therefore they’re picking the lesser of two evils, but that’s still an evil. Climate activism is important because it challenges the idea that it’s all about individual choice and instead calls for change in the structures that create the issues.”
Students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross will meet at Notre Dame at 10 a.m. to walk over to the Jon R. Hunt plaza, where a rally is planned for 11 a.m., according to a Facebook page for the event. Beginning at noon, organizers from the Sunrise Movement will host a “Climate Change Teach-in,” featuring several speakers from the Greater South Bend region.
“We don’t want to encourage anyone to miss class, but it is a strike,” Donahue said. “Given the amount of time we have left to take climate action, I would just encourage everyone to think about whether an hour of class or an hour calling for saving our future is more important, five years down the road.”