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Protest near Notre Dame calls attention to climate change

| Monday, October 4, 2021

Around 30 Notre Dame students, professors and members of the South Bend community gathered at the corner of Angela Blvd. and Eddy St. on Friday to advocate for environmental policies in the fight against climate change.

Maggie Eastland | The Observer
Protestors held a variety of brightly-colored posters with messages calling for action against climate change.

“We’re trying to light a little fire here in our corner of the world,” sociology professor and organizer Christian Smith said.

The protest took place as Democrats in Washington D.C. try to pass extensive climate legislation along with various social safety net programs in the Build Back Better bill

Smith said widespread policy to fight climate change, such as a tax on carbon emissions and efforts to stop cutting and burning the Amazon rainforest, must come together as soon as possible to avoid climate disaster.

Protestors carried neon posters with various messages, many with blunt, straightforward messaging.

Sophomore Jackson Glynn held a sign that red “Collective change or collective death,” written in bright red and green writing. 

Claire Lyons | The Observer
Jackson Glynn and other Notre Dame students line up along Angela Blvd. to advocate for action against climate change.

“It sounds dramatic, but if we wait until later, it’ll be too late,” Glynn said.

Other posters read, “The Earth is God’s to love, not ours to destroy,” “Major systemic change now,” “Mass extinction is happening now,” “Fossil billionaires must pay” and “Your home is on fire.”

The peaceful attitude of the protestors stood in contrast to their messages on paper.

Despite her nervous attitude toward protests, sociology graduate student Jennifer Dudley brought her two-year-old son Luke to the protest because she knew there would be no shouting or placing blame on individuals.

“He doesn’t understand yet that the earth is on fire,” Dudley said. “But hopefully someday when he does, he’ll know his mom was trying to do something about it.”

Claire Lyons | The Observer
Sociology graduate student Jennifer Dudley and her son Luke hold hands as they prepare to begin protesting.

As Dudley expected, the protest remained peaceful. With the goal of catching the attention of rush-hour commuters, participants spread out near the crosswalk just before 5 p.m. and quietly held their signs.

Protestors were met with positive reactions. Many people driving through the intersection honked in approval, gave a thumbs up or rolled down their windows to cheer in support of the protestors’ cause. One student biking through the intersection even stopped to tell protestors about her promising studies on green hydrogen.

Protestors in attendance represented a variety of different climate change passions.

Tom Kavanagh, part of the Notre Dame class of 1977, said he believes the University needs to lead the climate change charge within the faith community. 

Michael Rotolo, a sociology graduate student, said he is concerned about emissions and interested in how people pass on their moral views concerning climate change to their children.

With the return of self-serve options in the dining halls, sophomore Mack Pittman said she would like to see the University work on decreasing food waste by spreading awareness among students. Pittman is working on the food waste problem as a member of GreenND, a University club promoting sustainability and environmental consciousness.

The University recently announced a plan for carbon neutrality by 2050. However, some protesters said Notre Dame should do more to combat climate change. 

“It’s too little, too late. I’m not criticizing, but it’s just not enough,” Smith said. “We can’t just view it as an ND thing. It’s a global phenomenon.”

Smith handed out informational flyers to those supporting his cause. The flyers featured tips for addressing climate change on the national, state and individual levels. The sheet encouraged people to share their climate concerns with state and federal lawmakers as well as with family and friends while reducing their personal carbon footprint.

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