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Univ. faculty and students attend 2021 climate march

Hundreds of people, including 90 Brandeis community members, partook in the Climate March in Boston on Sep. 24 demanding change to help mitigate the effects of climate change, according to a Boston Globe article

Professors Sabine von Mering (GRALL, WGS, ENVS) and Sally Warner (ENVS, PHYS) helped coordinate busing for Brandeis students to attend the march. “I hope that students gained a deeper sense of what climate activism looks like and why it’s important in the fight to solve climate change,” wrote Warner to The Brandeis Hoot in an email interview regarding the march.  “Many students feel deeply anxious about the climate crisis, and going to a rally like this, marching with others who are equally anxious/angry/upset, and hearing from youth activists … I think is extremely important both for students’ sanity and their ability to learn from others what can be done,” wrote von Mering. 

The Climate March was organized by the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition, a group fighting for the execution of climate justice policy, according to their Instagram page. The spearhead of the event was Divya Nandan, a senior at Westborough High School, according to a Boston Globe article. The Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition is a part of a network of youth-led programs seeking climate policy reform, according to the article. 

Overall, the march was smaller in comparison to the Climate March held in 2019. The organizers of the event did not plan for the march to be as large as the 2019 event, which had 7000 people attend, according to von Mering. There were approximately 200 people in attendance at the march, von Mering wrote to The Hoot, with Brandeis being probably the largest contingent represented. The Brandeis community’s involvement in climate action extends past going to the Climate March. On campus there are student groups who work to implement climate action and reduce their own carbon footprint as well as the university’s. Warner wrote that she is impressed by the work of student groups on campus such as Brandeis Climate Justice, Brandeis Sustainability Ambassadors and Symbiosis, which is a part of Waltham Group. “Students are very important for enacting climate solutions on campus,” wrote Warner. 

Warner wrote to The Hoot that an important step for students to take is to educate themselves about climate change. The university launched a new Climate Justice, Science and Policy minor, a program that prepares students to address issues related to climate change,  according to an email sent by Dorothy Hodgson, Dean of Arts and Sciences, on Sep. 27. In one of her own courses, ENVS 39B Climate Change: Causes, Impacts, Responses and Solutions, Warner discusses how students can get involved with implementing climate solutions on small and large scales, wrote Warner.  “For more immediate action, participating in activism like attending last Friday’s climate rally or joining one of the student climate organizations on campus are also great ways to work towards the implementation of large-scale climate actions,” wrote Warner in regards to what students can do to participate in climate activism. 

According to von Mering, students should become aware of the climate crisis because of the impact it can have on their lives. Von Mering cited a study that discussed the future of extreme heat waves that will be far more severe than what has previously been experienced. “Students better prepare now for what’s ahead. Which means: Study climate, study the connections between climate and other issues (health, justice, economy, art – everything!), and start talking about it everywhere,” wrote von Mering. When asked about steps the university should take to become more climate-conscious, Warner wrote that she would like to see the university adopt the Vision 2030 sustainability plan, which was addressed in the university’s President’s Task Force on Campus Sustainability in 2020. The Campus Sustainability document outlines ways in which the university can promote sustainability on campus and become a more climate-resistant institution, according to the university’s President’s Task Force on Campus Sustainability webpage.

Von Mering and Warner both wrote that they would like to see the university divest from fossil fuels like how institutions such as Harvard University have. According to von Mering, “Nine years ago Brandeis had the opportunity to become a leader in the fossil fuel divestment movement. We lost that opportunity, and now even Harvard and BU have already divested.” By investing in fossil fuels, the university is profiting off of the destruction fossil fuels cause. This destruction in turn hinders students’ futures, wrote von Mering. Once divestment is achieved, according to von Mering, the university will be able to advocate for policies that will end society’s dependence on fossil fuels and shift laws towards 100 percent renewable energy sources.

For the march, the organizers required that everyone wear masks at all times. According to Warner, the organizers provided masks for individuals who had forgotten theirs. Von Mering and Warner did random checks of students’ passports when entering the busses to make sure that they had green passports, wrote von Mering. In her email, von Mering also noted the lack of representation in the age group under 16 which is usually a large continent at the march. Von Mering attributed this likely to the fact that many kids under the age of 16 are not vaccinated.

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