by NICOLE FITZSIMMONS & KELLY KENNEDY, Staff Writers
On Friday, Sept. 20, millions of people all over the globe gathered to take a stand for the climate crisis. Here in New York City, thousands of individuals met in Foley Square to strike against the lack of political action for the current global climate crisis, including many Manhattan College students. These students took to the streets of NYC to represent Manhattan College in the demand for action and change regarding the issue that has the potential to seriously damage not only the future of our planet but for the future of everyone living on it.
Campus Ministry and Social Action is an organization on campus that provides opportunities for students to engage in social justice and community service events such as the climate strike, while also practicing the Lasallian values with respect to all religious traditions. Coordinator Jacquie Martin, and Assistant Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships Kathleen Von Euw, both work in CMSA and work to help send students to programs around the city to learn about social justice and to immerse themselves in community service programs such as L.O.V.E. trips.
Last week, the organization sent students to the climate strike in NYC to demand action. On the Wednesday before the strike, students gathered in Kelly Commons to create signs and express their thoughts and aggravation with the lack of action regarding this issue creatively.
“Climate change is a really big issue that is pressing right now, so it was something we knew that students would be interested in. We wanted to support them in doing that. And, it’s so connected to so many of the other social injustice issues that we talk about in our general programs, especially immigration and racial justice,” said Martin.
The climate strike was one of many protests that CMSA has taken students to, including the Women’s March last January. Their goal is to give students the opportunity to tap into all of the opportunities that New York City has to offer.
Martin said, “We are trying to help them [students] make that connection, to make things more accessible.”
Donya Quhshi, CMSA Graduate Assistant, helped spark the idea for the students to organize themselves in attending the strike.
“As an organized group, participating in this strike is important to us because we recognize our roles in inciting a change and our power in numbers. It is our future that is at stake, and we are willing to march out of our classes and workplaces to let our politicians know that we want climate action now,” said Quhshi. “I am most excited to see our youth marching for a better future, and to see them so passionate about climate justice and being leaders is inspiring.”
Dozens of students from MC felt similarly and are participating in the strike. Senior mechanical engineering major Tomo Dugan was one of many students to join CMSA in the protest. His goals to pursue careers in renewable energy and green building have been inspired by what he has learned about climate change and the opinions that grew out of them.
“This is definitely an issue that we can’t wait on, definitely not anymore. I really wanted to participate in this strike because its a way to bring everyone who has a strong opinion about climate change in once place and demand change from our government officials and the companies that we interact with” said Dugan.
Something exciting that many Manhattan College students looked forward to was the appearance of climate change’s rising icon, Greta Thunberg. The sixteen-year-old from Sweden is one of the rising voices in the fight against climate change.
Quhshi said, “I am also looking forward to hearing Greta Thunberg speak, she represents today’s youth and their fight to hold politicians accountable for their negligence of the climate crisis.” The importance of the current generation’s potential influence on politics is greatly represented by Thunberg.
Following the climate strike, students all share the same wish: legislative action. While this is not an easy wish to grant considering today’s political climate, the student’s attending the strike hope for the MC community to do their part in attempting to slow down, and eventually end climate change.
While students wait for the government to take action, they can all do their part to help the planet. Dugan offered some examples of easy on-campus changes that college students can make for the cause. He suggested “eating less meat and less dairy, using cold water while you wash your clothes, and recycling and composting.”
To inflict change on a much bigger scale, he said, “We can demand change from officials where we see fit and then also support those officials who are carrying out our beliefs.” Being in a community where the representatives support totally different ends of the climate change spectrum, it is problematic for the constituent’s beliefs to not be fully represented.
“Statistics and polls say that the majority of Americans, around 70 percent, understand that climate change is a big deal.”
“It is a problem when a majority of Americans believe one thing and the people who are supposed to represent us do something completely different.” This is what the climate strike wished to take on head-first.
Students interested in participating in more events with CMSA can stop by their office in Kelly Commons to get involved. If students are interested in organizing local activist efforts, CSMA is always open to hearing new ideas.
“Our doors are always open and they can come by and find out more either in the Social Action Suite or at Cornerstone in Miguel 209,” said Von Euw.
“Manhattan College students have always been passionate about social justice and have strongly advocated for social change, especially in the Bronx Community. We have the resources and we have leaders right here on our campus, so there’s no doubt that we can incite change even on a wider scale” said Quhshi.