Oberlin Climate Strike Engages International Emergency

 In support of work undertaken by Sunrise Oberlin, Obies will once again engage with important national and international issues as we stand with the rest of the world and strike against climate change on Sept. 20. Coverage of the plan for the protest is on page 1 of this issue (“Sunrise Strikes for Brighter Future”).

The Global Climate Strike is a week-long protest starting next Friday during which citizens from over 120 countries, several thousand cities, and over a million students will take part in a climate rally to raise awareness that not only is climate change real, but it isalso a quickly-approaching emergency. 

Oberlin’s contribution via Sunrise Oberlin is already significant. On May 10, the organization presented the Green New Deal — a progressive bill that includes a comprehensive climate mandate — at a local town hall attended by 80 Oberlin residents. In just three months, the movement motivated 30 Oberlin students to demand climate action from Senator Sherrod Brown’s office in Cleveland with handwritten letters and personal stories. 

Through similar movements across the country, 106 senators and representatives have signed onto the Green New Deal. If our entire community could support this climate justice movement — rather than putting energy toward protesting threats to an imaginary crosswalk — we could be a lot closer to mitigating a very real and all-encompassing existential threat.

Sunrise Oberlin has also made major efforts in educating the Oberlin community by collaborating with the Department of Environmental Studies and hosting an event where speakers from the Oberlin community — including Jean Foggo Simon from the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee, John Elder from Citizens for Safe and Sustainable Energy, a former congressional candidate, youth activists, and a representative from Policy Matters Ohio — spoke about the importance of the Green New Deal in April. Along with a robust social media strategy on Facebook and Twitter that educates and entertains in tandem, movements like Sunrise are what make Oberlin a unique community and a remarkable institution. 

And the movement, as community members have recognized, is urgent. In 2018 alone, the U.S. saw major hurricanes Florence and Michael, eight smaller hurricanes, and 15 named tropical storms cause enormous loss of life and cost several billion dollars in damages. We are already on track to see an above-average number of natural disasters in 2019, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Such disasters can no longer be termed “natural.” One of the pivotal factors that contribute to extreme weather events is climate change. Detailed in an article published earlier this year in The Washington Post are expert opinions from researchers at esteemed institutions like University of California, Berkeley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA that showcase the last few years as the hottest and the wettest in history. Because of climate change, these numbers are only expected to worsen. 

Beyond the United States, countries all over the world are feeling similar, if not worse, effects of global warming. Each day brings reports of rampant wildfires, drought, desertification, and chronic flooding all over the world. Cities like Jakarta, Indonesia and Manila, Philippines are known to be sinking due to the sea-level rise caused by melting ice caps, and the question of relocating coastal communities — both in developed nations like Italy and the U.S. and developing nations such as India and China — is becoming more and more urgent.

In short, this is the fight of and for our lives. We are amid a climate crisis that includes threats like biodiversity loss, economic injustice, environmental racism, and inaccessibility to basic needs such as clean air and water, to name just a few. These are issues that people around the world — including Oberlin students and residents — grapple with every day. 

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, several Oberlin students took time off of their regular classes to travel to the South, organize for social justice, and report back to the Review from the frontlines. In a new moment of intense moral urgency, we are happy to see the beginnings of this flame being rekindled with respect to the fight against climate change and for a just and sustainable future.

Dr. Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, an Inupiaq climate justice activist with ties to Oberlin, put it best in this week’s Off the Cuff interview: “[Obies] are keeping the Arctic alive in their hearts and moving with goodness” (“Dr. Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Iñupiaq Environmental Activist”). Fighting the climate crisis will require all of us to move swiftly and with goodness — next week’s climate strike is a moment of shared agency in that fight that we hope all Obies will carry forward in their hearts and into our collective futures.