On Friday, March 15, 2 days from today, thousands of young activists will be striking from school to demand action on climate change. This movement is led by high school and middle school students across the world and will occur in 30 different countries. The message is clear — why go to school when politicians and corporations do nothing to tackle the existential threat to us and future generations?
At the University of Redlands, we as students will bear the weight of an unlivable climate, and it is clear the Administration is slow, at best, to tackle these concerns. The administration does not represent the interests of students by investing in dirty energy companies. These are corporations that have made knowing decisions to continue to place profit over a livable climate. They are the same industries that University of Redlands trustees have made millions from. Theo Whitcomb and Elise Eifler the co-presidents of Student’s for Environmental Action are working to organize this strike.
Join us on Friday, March 15 at 10:30 a.m. when we will demand Climate Action on the Administration Building steps.
- We demand the University divest from mutual funds supporting dirty energy and reinvest in socially responsible portfolios that explicitly screen out any fossil fuel investments.
- We demand the university to be transparent about where endowment funding comes from. Who is funding our school?
- We demand the University rapidly reinvest in completely decarbonizing our energy sources through renewable infrastructure as soon as possible.
- We demand our curriculum to reflect the science and integrate climate justice into our classrooms and education.
These are not long-term demands. We need the Administration to include immediate concrete steps in all short-term development plans.
The urgency is abundantly clear. As Bill McKibben puts it, the habitable area of the planet is shrinking, and it is a calamity vast enough not to need overstating. When he visited in 2017, he urged action, saying that it was possible for the University to make these changes.
In Redlands, California, we have become numb to endless drought and accustomed to three straight years of increasingly devastating wildfires. In the Inland Empire, polluting warehouse industries that rely solely on the profitability of fossil fuels and continue to harm already marginalized communities with some of the worst air pollution in the country. Climate justice is a local issue.
On a larger scale, air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels alone has potential to result in 150 million premature deaths by the end of the century unless we limit average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (or hold warming at 2 degrees without relying on sucking carbon from the air). Right now we are on track for 4 degrees, hurtling towards a series of “tipping points” that we may never recover from.
The consequences affect some more than others, and most of the time they hurt communities of color. Vann R. Newkirk II shows that, in the United States, “Pollution and the risk of disaster are assigned to black and brown communities through generations of discrimination and political neglect.” Hurricane Maria and superstorm Sandy are examples. These are storms fueled by warming oceans that marginalized communities are still struggling to recover from.
There are solutions – it is undeniable decarbonizing is necessary, and so is ending any financial investment in fossil fuels. Divest & Reinvest.
Two years ago, I sat in a boardroom with the cabinet to lobby a concrete plan to address our ecological impact. Since then, little has been done to address the concerns. No new solar panels have been installed, divestment was shot down on site and the president of the University himself thought to advocate for placing a price on carbon was useless in the long run – we are a small school, and it would have little to no impact.
This is the same argument that Dianne Feinstein tried to use against activists from groups including the Sunrise Movement, Youth vs. Apocalypse, and Bay Area Earth Guardians. “You didn’t vote for me,” she said, insisting that she wouldn’t endorse the Green New Deal because it couldn’t pass Congress.
Mark Hertsgaard’s article “The Climate Kids are Coming,” published in The Nation, captures the debilitating sentiment of our country’s leadership. “Feinstein doesn’t grasp that climate change has become an emergency precisely because she and the rest of the status quo have done so little over the last years—and that humanity’s survival now requires nothing less than the transformative mobilization embodied by a Green New Deal.”
I think he speaks towards every sedated institution coping with the onrush of climate catastrophe. Regarding environmental action, those in power cannot possibly grasp the mobilization that is needed to tackle the next two decades. The University of Redlands is without a doubt no exception.
Think about it: 70 percent of Americans understand climate change is happening and 85 percent support funding a transition to renewables. I would go as far as to say the numbers at this university are higher than that. The administration’s lip service promoting “sustainability” does little except send an image that we are better than we are. When, in fact, our touted co-generator is most likely powered by fracked natural gas, and we have yet to install solar panels on Lewis Hall’s barren roof.
Right now, we don’t need institutions to spread fashionable optics, we need concrete action. This means two things.
- We demand the University of Redlands divest from Mutual Funds supporting dirty, polluting energy.
- We demand the university to be transparent about where endowment funding comes from. Who funds our school?
- We demand they instead rapidly invest in decarbonizing the Universities energy system.
- We demand our curriculum to reflect the science, and integrate climate justice into our classrooms and education.
Currently, the earth is on track to warm 4 degrees. The universities dirty investments, fossil fuel infrastructure, and governing ideology does not reflect the urgency of human history.
We urge the University of Redlands to TAKE ACTION NOW!