Falling into the Chasm of Climate Strikes

By Claire Barber 

A small sea of student activists were sprawled on the ground, in various states of disarray: limbs hanging over grey government steps, puffy jackets, and cardboard signs pressed into the cold pavement. 

Students were partaking in a “die in,” where protesters act like they are dead. The practice is an attempt to remind onlookers of the serious, life threatening implications of the climate crisis. Activists lay silent, in respect to those who have already lost their lives to the climate emergency.

This “die in” was just one small part of an about two-hour long climate strike held at City Hall last Friday, Dec. 6.

The Strike was organized by the Colorado College chapter of the Sunrise Movement and coincided with the UN COP25 Climate Change Conference held in Madrid which ran from Dec. 2-13. The strike attracted around 200 students according to The Gazette, along with a gaggle of around 20-something locals and reporters. 

Students gathered at Worner Campus Center at 9 a.m., clipboards and cameras and homemade signs in hand. Blocking traffic on occasion, we made it downtown. Students from Palmer High School joined the strike as well. 

Energy and anger came in waves. The moment felt repetitive but necessary. Yet, going to the strike gave me an odd feeling of disarray. 

I am an environmental science major and had class cancelled by my teacher, so I had to go right? There were bigger reasons of course to go too: the climate crisis is here and ever-present and requires immediate action. But, something felt off to me. Was this the right move to way a difference?

The strike had inspiring moments, and rightfully focused heavily on an environmental justice framework. But then there were moments where activists got to the mic and contradicted each other on what action to take. At one point two students disputed each other over composting on CC’s campus.  

So, I stood on the steps of City Hall, questioning the effectiveness of the climate movement itself, disheartened when everyone broke apart. What is actually going to happen? Did this strike actually do anything? 

I want to say that it did. I want to say that it got some people to register to vote in Colorado. I want to say that it brought further climate awareness to Colorado Springs. But then again, maybe that isn’t the immediate focus, after all, the movement expands, obviously, beyond the immediate moment.

I spoke with Brita Mackey ’22 and Rui Zhou ’21 from the Sunrise Chapter at CC. Somewhat soothing my nervous, anxious doubts, they described the goals of Sunrise, which are inspiring and go far beyond the strikes.

The strikes are a somewhat new strategy for Sunrise and are meant to be executed in the “break business as usual” model. But then one has to question: breaking business as usual for what, specifically, in the movement? The what, is politics. Sunrise itself views climate change as a truly political issue. The group is currently focused on getting the Green New Deal globalized and into the agenda of political candidates. The organization is centrally focused on the democratization of the movement, and the inclusion of traditionally disenfranchised groups in the political process. 

But my criticism lies not in Sunrise as a movement, but our participation in the strikes; our ability to see beyond our immediate life and into the wider world; to take seriously the goals of Sunrise and the core of other climate movements that people may choose to align themselves with. 

It goes beyond marching on the streets. Sure, it’s one step, but how many of us deeply pay attention? How many of us march and go home? Regrettably, I’ve ignored many of the emails I’ve already received from Sunrise for further action and participation. I am one more cog in the broken machine. 

How do we fix it? 

If you are interested in participating in Sunrise CC, check out their Facebook page for more information.  

Claire Barber

Claire Barber

Claire Barber '22 is the Social Media Manager and an Active Life writer for The Catalyst. She is an Environmental Studies major with minors in Journalism and Film Studies. She hopes to report on climate migration in the future, and is especially inspired by human centered pieces. You can almost always find her skiing, eating ramen noodles, climbing, and searching for vintage overalls at thrift stores.

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