Natalie Juarez, junior, was one of over 50 students who marched through the rain this past Friday in hopes of creating a dialogue on campus about climate change.
“I’m not a very well informed person in terms of recycling and in terms of sustainability so I took it as a learning experience,” Juarez said. “I went with the hopes that we can actually start talking about things like that.”
About 75 people gathered in Ferris Lounge for the strike. Participants met in Ferris to hear speeches by Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Katherine Adelsberger and organizers and then called Representative Cheri Bustos’ offices to ask for congressional action on climate change.
Most of the group then marched from Seymour down to the Quads and then past Seymour, Old Main and GDH to the front steps of Alumni Hall where they held a rally. While some people left before the march, they also picked up some students during passing hour.
“I think it was when we were passing GDH or something and we were yelling ‘Join us! Join us!’ and then some people definitely came up to us and then followed us to Alumni Hall,” Students for Sustainability co-president Poornima Tata, sophomore, said.
The event was co-hosted by Students for Sustainability and the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter at Knox.
Students for Sustainability treasurer Fiona Munro, senior, and co-presidents Tata and Sophie Smith, sophomore, had started talking over the summer about holding an event connected with the global strike but were worried about how much could be achieved with only the first week of school to plan.
“We were talking about it when we got back to campus, sort of what we could do,” Munro said. “We floated a bunch of different ideas like just going to the rally in the Quad Cities, hosting a discussion, something like that.”
When it was uncertain if the event could come together, Tata reached out to YDSA co-chair Soleil Smith, senior, to see if YDSA would be interested in helping organize the event. “I think it could happen even if it can’t,” Tata said. “That goes for me and Soleil, even if we don’t have the time we’re like, ‘We can do this, let’s go for it.’”
The groups began organizing a larger event for campus which would lead into busing people over to the Quad Cities rally. However, the Quad Cities event was postponed due to weather.
The groups also developed a set of demands specific to Knox’s campus, based on the five demands of the global climate strike started by student activists. The global demands are: a Green New Deal, indigenous sovereignty, environmental justice, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture.
“In that respect, Knox is a good place for it because we are a learning institution, so it fits in that kind of aspect of the global movement,” said Munro. “And the goal of the two strikes was just to get people out in streets and make a lot of noise. And Knox being this thoughtful, progressive campus that it is, it seemed important that we say something on this historic day.”
Organizers were pleased with the turn out and hope the event sent a message to the administration that the demands have support. However, they also said they would need to continue pushing for the changes if they wanted to see them happen.
“The administration takes the first stepÉ then obviously we are going to help them do it,” Tata said.
Having a large action like the strike was also encouraging to YDSA in their hopes of involving more of campus in activism. Co-chair Ty Kiatathikom, junior, said that he felt Knox had lost some of its activist spirit which he had heard about while applying but had not seen on campus.
“That’s part of what we’re trying to change,” Kaithathikom said. “To get the Knox community in general to sort of not only talk the talk but walk the walk.”
Participants also came away with a sense of greater participation and further action after this. “There was a list of demands for the school and they had printed out copies for it and they were pretty much talking about things we can do on an individual stance and then as a whole campus and then that hopefully creates a dialogue in the whole Galesburg community,” Juarez said.
Soleil Smith is the Discourse Editor for The Knox Student.
Knox Climate Strike Demands: