Greta Thunberg saying, “How dare you,” is perhaps her most striking line from her address to the United Nations Climate Summit. By now, I’m sure that we all are a bit sick of hearing about climate change. Here at Gustavus, we’ve been bombarded with it at every turn. Now is about the time in the news cycle that we all usually decide that its time to drop the subject and move onto the next crisis. Suddenly, the one issue that we cared so much about is put on the back burner. Soon, Thunberg will target her words at us, our generation.
By allowing ourselves to walk down the path of despair and general disregard for the crisis that we live in everyday, we will become like the generation before us, who left the issue to their grandchildren and children. Except there won’t be much world to be left behind.
This is why we need to keep the spirit of the climate strike and the spirit of Thunberg alive, not only in our own lives, but all across campus. While we may believe that we remember why we protested and want to continue the fight, in the past, only a small minority of us who went to the strike will put the lessons into action and do something to help handle the crisis.
But that’s not what I see this campus doing. On every level at Gustavus, I’m seeing a significant push for a more renewable and environmentally friendly campus. And it ranges from all the way at the top, right down to small portions of the student body. Upper administration members are holding meetings, forming committees and setting real goals. Large campus groups such as Building Bridges are focusing on the climate crisis as the topic of this year’s conference. Once a small campus organization, the Environmental Action Coalition (EAC) built itself up from the ground to become one of the most influential groups on campus.
Professors are adding climate change discussions and issues into their classes, even if they are not teaching a science course. Because as many of us learned last week, the climate crisis is not all about science, the natural environment, and the atmosphere. It’s also about people. Every corporation. Every community. You and me, and everyone else at Gustavus.
This is the kind of work that makes me proud to be a Gustie. And that’s why I am writing this article. We need to keep this momentum that we obtained from the Global Climate Strike and the Nobel Conference going, and even accelerate our speed. If we are to make any progress in changing our own behavior, as well as that of the entire Western world (by far the guiltiest culprits for the crisis we find ourselves in), the climate crisis needs to be our focus. If we can’t survive on this planet, we won’t even have a place to solve all the other important issues of the world.
There are countless ways you can do your part in tackling the climate crisis even just here as a student on campus. If you can’t make it to meetings of environmental groups, try attending some of their events. Bring up the issue of the climate crisis in your own organizations and/or classes. Encourage your peers and fellow Gusties to take steps to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Make the case to your residence hall, or even just your neighbors, to educate residents about what they can do to make the building more eco-friendly.
We have made such amazing progress on the campus already, so I see no reason why we cannot go even further and truly change the culture of Gustavus.
I envision a future where composting is second nature. Where Big Hill Farm is bigger than it has ever been. Where we produce no waste as a community. We are well on our way to this future. But we cannot let ourselves falter and fail to reach these goals. Forgetting or not caring is not an option. Moving on is not an option.
“Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis…We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people,” Thunberg said.