From grassroots to treetops: Protect our climate

Socio-political issues come and go, but never without a fight. If there were ever a pressing issue in our world, it’s the advent of global climate change. But where is “the fight” exactly? Is there even a fight at all? This issue touches not just one group of people, but all of civilization. Of course, there are actions and measures of different degrees, but there has been no unified grassroots fight against climate change across the United States, especially on college campuses like ours.

That’s all about to change.

Illustration by Kelsey Skordal

Illustration by Kelsey Skordal

It’s true that many of us carry around reusable water bottles, turn off our lights, and take environmental studies classes like ‘Intro to Global Climate Change’. However, we all know that the problem isn’t going to be solved by our stickered-up water bottles – that’s a band-aid for a broken leg. We, as a generation and as a world, need large-scale political action from the top and it’s not happening. There is one major component missing in the solution to the climate change problem – us.

In the past, political action did not spring out of thin air. The Emancipation Proclamation was not born in the White House. People throughout the country stood up and fought for change. Books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or the actions of John Brown, the martyr and activist once branded as a terrorist, inspired an entire generation to challenge the status quo.

People and their direct actions predicate larger institutional change. It was just four years after Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. As Lincoln himself put it, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.”

So why have our actions to stop climate change been so limited? It is because we are profiteers from this modern slave trade. Our lives are made tremendously more convenient by our accessibility to cheap energy, just as the cheap labor of slaves created tremendous ease and wealth in the South. Every day we profit from fossil fuels and we place what is best for us above what is best for humanity.

We, in the post-industrial world, will be able to adapt to a changing climate. First world nations will be able to modify crops, handle the rise of food prices, desalinate water, and implement alternative energy technology. But what about the one billion people who live on one dollar or less a day? Their struggle for survival will become impossible.

People talk about the extinction of the polar bears, but the focus should be redirected to the human-centric impacts; climate change is a civil rights injustice in disguise. The detrimental effects of climate change will hurt most of the people on Earth who have done nearly nothing to contribute to the problem. On the other hand, we struggle to care because we are the beneficiaries, but it is unconscionable to continue burning fossil fuels unabated. Business as usual is immoral. It’s time for the movement to begin.

So how do we do it? Ultimately, we need an emancipation proclamation. We need a carbon tax. We need to shift our source of energy. But that is the Federal government’s role, and they won’t follow unless we begin to lead. Gandhi said, “There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.” Similarly, our leaders need the people to lead them; they need the youth now more than ever. On campus, what we can do to lead the fight against climate change is to divest our endowment from fossil fuel companies.

It’s time our institution took a moral stand against climate change and stopped profiting from crimes against humanity. But we can’t convince them alone – we need your help. Students over the past five years have repeatedly asked for divestment to no avail. But things are different this year.

The newly formed Student Divestment Committee (SDC) is working with over 200 other colleges to lead a unified struggle for institutions of higher learning to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The opportunity for advocacy is upon you. Remember when I said that we are the missing element? I’m talking about the 19.7 million college students and 400 billion dollars in college endowment funds. So far, it has been missing from the struggle. Together, we can change that.

It’s time for us all to join this grassroots movement. If you’ve ever felt like making a change, if you’ve ever walked out of that sociology or environmental studies class feeling guilty because you’re part of the problem, then stand up with me now. It’s time we, as global citizens of this already failing planet, became part of the solution, not part of the problem.

That’s why the SDC has started a school-wide petition advocating for the divestment of the Colorado College endowment from fossil fuels. It’s time we became bigger than our individual actions. It’s time to drum up the public sentiment and be heard. The petition for divestment has arrived. I’ll see you in Worner.

 

To join the movement or for more info e-mail: studentdivestmentcommittee@cc.edu

Alex Suber

Guest Writer

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