By: TAYLOR HILL
On the sweltering morning of Friday, September 20th, as a part of the Global Climate Strike, South Bend’s Sunrise Movement organized a rally outside the Morris Performing Arts Center.
Starting at 10 A.M, students from both Notre Dame and IU South Bend marched from their respective campuses in support of the strike.
The Global Climate Strike was an idea started in part by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, whose work has inspired many other young students through the movement #FridaysForFuture. The Climate Strike is taking place in anticipation of world leaders meeting for a UN Climate Summit in New York on September 23.
The Sunrise Movement is most notable for a protest on November 13, 2018, where they urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to advocate for climate change as a top priority in Congress. At that protest, 51 activists were arrested.
Greg Campion, an organizer in South Bend’s division of the Sunrise Movement and Notre Dame student, described the movement as, “A youth climate activism group, pushing for the Green New Deal, and trying to fight climate change and wealth disparity at the same time by creating jobs in sustainable energy.”
South Bend’s Sunrise Movement was joined by Food Not Bombs, an organization that takes food that would otherwise be wasted to make meals for the food insecure.
There was also a gathering of The Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition, who are according to their website, “…an organization of concerned individuals and organizational representatives living in the border region of Michigan and Indiana that advocates and promotes peace and justice. We are supported by and we support the Peace Education Fund of Indiana, Inc.”
A large crowd gathered, with diverse participants including students ranging from college to middle school, teachers, small children, parents, and seniors. The audience held colorful signs with sayings such as, “Our house is on fire!” and, “For the people we love.”
A group of three girls who are attending middle school took the day off, one saying, “I’ve always been a big environmentalist, and school offered service hours, so I asked my mom and she let me come out.”
Several speakers addressed the crowd with personal anecdotes and calls to action. Speakers included Garrett Blad, a Notre Dame student working as a press coordinator for the Sunrise Movement, who said, “I’m fighting for my family, and for the freedom and security of farmers like my family across the country.”
Another Notre Dame student, Julia McKenna, told her story of becoming a climate activist after going to a summer camp at Prairie Winds Nature Farm focused on climate change. McKenna has since dedicated years of her life to environmental activism, founding a group called the South Bend Climate Champions, which on Earth Day this year helped unanimously pass a climate change resolution for the city of South Bend through the common council. They are currently in the process of creating a plan for the city to achieve its sustainability goals.
Jose Miguel Chiquito From Goshen College spoke about his experience as a DACA student who grew up in Goshen, Indiana and his love for nature.
“Not until recently have I felt obligated to really fight. Being young doesn’t mean much until you suddenly realize you’re awake in the midst of a climate and human rights crisis. The uncertainty that threatens our future is catastrophic. However, the resilience wielded by parents, my parents, the parents today that trek thousands of miles across countries for a better future for their children is the kind of inspiration that we need today” said Chiquito.
Professor Chris Cobb from Saint Mary’s College spoke about our local government and bringing global climate action down to where we live.
Cobb said, “We need to be thinking not only about the city of South Bend, but the entire county of Saint Joseph.”
While the city of South Bend has passed a climate resolution that will make the common council take action, the same cannot be said about the entire county or even Michiana area.
Cobb brings up the St. Joseph County Open Space and Agricultural Alliance (OSAA) and their concern over the proposed industrial park that would be built on top of existing farmland in New Carlisle.
“The reason that this is happening and being carried forward is because the decision making about this has been hidden away from the public.” Cobb said that the OSAA is bringing this issue back to the common council to fight this decision. He invited the crowd to join him October 8 at 6 P.M. at the city county building, on the intersection of Lafayette and Jefferson to pressure the council into action.
Congressional Candidates Pat Hackett and Ellen Marks were also in attendance to address the crowd. Current Congresswoman Jackie Walorski was also invited to the climate strike, but could not attend due to being in Washington D.C. at the time. Both Hackett and Marks are democrats, attorneys, and support the proposed Green New Deal.
Hackett shortly addressed her opponent Walorski’s stance on climate change, saying that she is kept in office by the fossil fuel industry, which explains her history of voting against actions to address climate change. Hackett proposes that she would represent the interests of voters rather than those of the fossil fuel industry.
With regards to the Green New Deal Hackett said, “What’s new about the Green New Deal is the recognition that we can leave no one behind. The disenfranchised, the vulnerable, those who are most impacted by climate change.”
She said that she believes in the young people in attendance and their commitment to lessening the climate crisis and that she shares those commitments.
Marks said of her campaign, “I’m running because our planet is literally on fire, and I can’t stand to sit back and watch that, and not make the change that we need.” Marks goes on to state, “We need a new clean energy economy, and a Green New Deal.”
After the event when Hackett was asked about the turnout of students from the local college students, she said, “I have deep respect that, especially college students, would take the time when it’s very early in the semester and you’re concerned about your academic progress.
A lot of you have outside jobs as well, and that you would make this such an important issue that you would be here. I mean that’s a real testament to the commitment and the vision.”
She continued saying “Courage doesn’t always express itself in big public stances, courage is saying okay I have the courage to step away from my academics for this set of hours. Because I believe that this impacts the wellbeing of not only myself but others, even globally. That’s an act of courage. I want to commend the students who are participating in this”
IU South Bend Professor Christina Bailey was there and said for those who want to get more involved, “The Center for Sustainability is always here to support students.” Bailey also added that getting involved is important because “We have to change our culture to change our future.”