UD students participate in Global Climate Strike
Hundreds of people, two weiner dogs and a mermaid gathered on the North Green last Friday for the university’s Climate Strike.
At 1:00 p.m. under a clear sky, Students for the Environment, the Sierra Club and the Delaware Environmental Institute hosted the strike in front of Memorial Hall in solidarity with more than 150 countries around the world participating in the Global Climate Strike.
Two strikes were planned in Delaware: one at the university and another at the Cab Calloway School of the Arts. The university had eight co-hosts, including the Climate Reality Project, Delaware United, the Green Liaisons and the Unitarian Universalist Delaware Advocacy Network (UUDAN).
The climate strike trend was started by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish activist, in 2018. Thunberg began protesting climate inaction in front of the Swedish parliament every Friday. The movement has since grown significantly. Just this year, more than two million students around the world have participated in strikes directly inspired by Thunberg’s example.
Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton was one of the guests in attendance. He was optimistic about the future of the movement, especially the energy coming from the younger generations, and encouraging the students in attendance to become civically engaged.
“It was really heartening for me to be around a lot of people who were very passionate,” Clifton said. “All the great ideas don’t come from the [city council], they come from our neighbors, including university students throughout Newark. We should have some of the best ideas coming forward because of the fact that we are home to UD.”
Ten speakers at the event covered every issue from the Green New Deal to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, even calling out particular politicians by name.
“If we thought just electing someone with a ‘D’ next to their name alone was enough to solve the problem, we would not be standing here today,” Dan Carapezzi, a junior environmental studies major representing the Democratic Socialists of America, said. “I’m looking at you, Chris Coons and Tom Carper.”
“I’ve sat across from Senator Tom Carper to talk about the Green New Deal and he’s told me the Green New Deal to him is an attack on his climate record,” Coby Owens, a speaker for the Youth Caucus of America, said. “Me fearing for my future, for the future of these young kids behind me, is an attack on his climate record.”
UUDAN Founder Jack Guerin was impressed by the younger generation’s supposed newfound energy regarding climate change during a national UU conference call, which brought more than 500 people, including several young activists.
“Young people were talking about how they were frustrated when older people said, ‘What you’re doing is wonderful,’” Guerin said. “‘What the young people are doing is going to save the planet,’ when the older generation is still in charge, still in power.”
Lelane Rossouw-Bancroft, a local business owner and Newark resident, donned a mermaid costume for the strike to draw attention to the pollution of the world’s oceans.
“I hope people will … realize how important it is that we make a change to save our planet now,” Rossouw-Bancroft said. “People are neglecting [the environment] and they don’t realize how important it is and we’re destroying it, we’re our planet’s worst enemy.”
Dustyn Thompson, community outreach coordinator for the Sierra Club of Delaware and steering committee member for Delaware United, praised his fellow hosts, the Green Liaisons and the Delaware Environmental Institute, as being instrumental in coordinating the event and scheduling speakers.
“It’s been great,” Thompson said. “We’ve all got a singular goal: getting people out and showing the importance of this issue and how it is and will continue to disproportionately impact younger generations as far as health concerns and as far as what they’re gonna have to inherit from the mistakes of the past.”
The university also weighed in on the Climate Strike and touted their own advancements in sustainability.
“We are proud to educate the next generation of Blue Hen engineers and scientists poised to help solve technological and environmental problems,” the university said in an email statement. “They are joined on campus by future policy makers, farmers, businesspeople, health professionals and engaged citizens who will contribute to improving our environment and our world.”
Though in 2009 the university signed the Climate Action Plan, which pledged to cut emissions by 20% by 2020. However, according to Zachary Roy, senior double major in energy and environmental policy and political science and co-president of the Climate Reality Project, the university currently sits at about 7%.
Roy described the excitement on the part of the organizers at the crowd size and personal gratification felt from their involvement.
“We were over the moon to get to the huge crowd we had, the speakers were amazing,” Roy said. “It feels great. I’m very proud to be a part of an organization that promotes stuff like this and just to be involved.”
Hadley Dzuray, senior public policy major, president of the Green Liaisons, co-president of the Climate Reality Project and chair of the Delaware Environmental Institute, also praised the movement and showed enthusiasm for the energy surrounding the strike and the future of climate change discussions.
“I am so excited to be able to bring this incredible, necessary movement to the University of Delaware!” Dzuray said in an email. “This is the largest climate based mobilization in history, so even though there is still a long road ahead of us, I know this is a huge step in the right direction.”
Kristin Mikles, a senior at Cab Calloway School of the Arts and coordinator of the Climate Strike at her school, and Melanie Ezrin, junior environmental science and public policy major and president of Students for the Environment, echoed similar sentiments.
“We want people to realize how dire this problem is,” Mikles said in an email. “We want people to realize how much this will affect Delaware. But we also want people to realize that they can do something, even if it’s not extreme. We want people to realize that a thousand people doing 10% is more impactful than one person doing 100.”
“This strike is an opportunity for people to express their frustration and concern that not enough is being done to slow climate change,” Ezrin said in an email. “Individual actions can only do so much to protect the planet. We need to make our voices heard and we need our government officials to listen. And then we need them to act.”