Where the adults in power have neglected to take action concerning climate change, young people have chosen to do so. On the morning of September 20th, groups of people across the world, Hendrix included, participated in a global climate strike including protests, walk-outs, and marches.
The Global Climate strike was started by high school students and further organized by a coalition of organizations, social movements and other groups around the world in support of young people working towards change.
According to the official website for the Global Climate Strike, “In over 150 countries, people are stepping up to support young climate strikers and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.”
Hendrix’s Student Code of Conduct states, “The College is committed to maintaining an atmosphere in which free expression is protected and promoted.”
The climate strike took place from 10AM to 2PM in the campus brick pit before marching to meet University of Central Arkansas’ students at the Rogers Plaza Fountain. The strike ended at 5PM.
In the brick pit, students were able to sign postcards to United States Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton who are both representatives of Arkansas and members of the Republican party. The postcards were marketed as “A Religious Response to Global Warming” and sent through Interfaith Power & Light.
One postcard presented the advantages of a Green New Deal. It said, “The proposal for a Green New Deal presents us with a moral opportunity to respond to the ecological and economic crises facing our country and world.”
Another postcard said, “We must act now if we are to have any hope of preserving the Earth’s bounty for future generations. Please support legislation that gets us to 100% renewable energy by 2050.”
Students were also able to make signs using provided markers and recycled cardboard, or they drew in the brick pit with chalk during the strike.
In addition to helping organize the UCA and Conway strikes, seniors Jessica Emerson and Darian Dyer were in charge of organizing Hendrix’s climate strike. They publicized the event through Facebook, posters, and other social media platforms and were also present for the entirety of the strike.
“The main purpose of our strike was to show that the reasoning behind the Global Climate Strike was supported even in Central Arkansas. It was meant to show that complacent leadership on climate problems would not be tolerated anywhere. It’s a moment to display that everyone, from every part of the earth, is ready and demanding meaningful action from our leaders.”
Dyer explained that most students stopped by between classes, and few students actually skipped class for the strike.
“I know Hendrix students are more studious than the typical college student, but I think Hendrix’s call for an “engaged citizen” would have been the perfect time for them to decide that they are human beings needing just climate action before their student identity,” Dyer said.
According to the Student Code of Conduct, Hendrix College is committed to “diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living,” and with inclusion and diversity comes people of many different backgrounds and experiences.
Dyer considers herself to have a “pretty hardy” background in the issue of climate change. She said, “Even though I was raised in a rural small town in Arkansas, I grew up in a progressive household so I knew there were problems from a pretty young age.
“I probably first heard the term “climate change” either during Barack Obama’s presidential run in 2008 or, more than likely, I heard about it from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which I watched most mornings with my siblings before my dad took us to school.” Dyer said.
In high school, Dyer became involved with the Young Democrats of Arkansas, and is now an environmental studies major.
Senior Carlee Shepard grew up in North Carolina. She was required to take a general environmental studies course in her high school, which she did not realize was “unusual” until she came to Hendrix.
Shepard said, “I had a background that a lot of people were deprived, and I think it’s really amazing that people are able to, despite their background, look at these issues and say ‘this is important. I need to learn more about it, and I need to do something about it.’”
About the strike, Shepard said, “We’re a group of college students; it’s hard for us to make a difference, but, if we all get together, we have a really loud voice.”
In another case, sophomore Thalia Fort grew up with paleontologist grandparents, so science was largely what she grew up learning about. Her education of scientific issues came from her schooling, also.
“(Climate change) was what we talked about it in my school. We had several weeks where we would just bring in different climate change activists that we would meet with and learn with. I think I’m very lucky to have had that. It’s really privileged–the kind of experience I had, that a lot of other people in the country haven’t gotten to have.” Fort said.
At the strike, Fort said, “I want people in power to be scared. I want people to acknowledge fact.
“I feel like, often, the dialogue about climate change is between people in the scientific community and politicians, and then there’s a whole lot of people that (are) left out of it. And often, the people who are left out of it are the people that climate change will affect the most, and I want those people to be included in the discussion…I feel like you do that by marching…This is something that includes everyone, and everyone has access to it.”
Each Hendrix student who attended the strike had a different background regarding issues of climate change. Some were aware since a young age of climate issues, while others were not aware before coming to college. Despite these differences, students chose to unite as witnesses to a negatively changing world.
“Young people had the least to do with the creation of our climate crisis yet they have the most at stake. Historically, young voices were never taken seriously until they started to disturb business as usual. If they can do this, which I think they’ve shown that they can, then they will play that role in fighting climate change.” Dyer said.
Climate change is something that impacts or will impact everyone in the world, but can also unite everyone through shared experience. Young people’s shared perspective of the changing world can help unite them to become catalysts for a positive change in how humans affect the environment.
Shepard said, “I’ve been raised playing outside; I’ve been watching birds with my grandmother since I was, like, six. And, just, you start learning in elementary and middle school that “hey, the world isn’t perfect,” but you’re still raised on the idea that you can make things better. So I feel like this is one of those issues where it’s important to continue working towards perfection, you know?”