Cold rain did not stop dozens of people from participating in the Global Climate Strike in Kalamazoo on Friday.
About 70 Western Michigan University students, faculty, staff and community members (among them a few young children) gathered for a lunchtime rally at the flagpoles on Western’s campus. They cheered as speakers called for action on climate change, including a faster transition away from fossil fuels at WMU.
The weather “probably scared some people away,” Students for a Sustainable Earth President Shannon Ervin told the crowd. But, she added, “We are here because we are resilient!”
Kalamazoo’s event was one of more than 2000 scheduled around the world on Friday, according to the nonprofit group Fridays for Future, and was one of at least eight planned around Michigan. Organizers modeled the strikes on the weekly protests of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist.
First-year Western student Anna Vitale says she didn’t have to skip class to come to the rally. “But I would have, if I had a class at this time,” she said. She said it’s “very urgent” that people address climate change.
“It’s just crazy that there’s even people out there that don’t believe that anything’s going on,” she said.
“I just hope that we spread some awareness about it, because I feel like there’s a lot of people that don’t understand these topics,” Vitale added.
Second-year student Kali Bach says she “definitely” feels a sense of urgency about addressing climate change. “And everyone in my family does,” she added.
“I talk to my grandparents about this, and they definitely see a change in the climate and weather,” Bach said.
The climate might be a global issue, but Ervin focused on changes that SSE would like to see at Western. She called on the university to move its planned carbon neutrality date from 2065 to 2050, “with 45 percent to 50 percent carbon neutrality from current levels by 2030.”
SSE also wants to see the university appoint an environmental panel that would have a role in campus design projects, commit to preserving several natural areas around campus including the Oliver Street Prairie and the Valley Woods, formally adopt a Tree Care Plan (as the university works to regain its Tree Campus USA status) and make the campus “bird and pollinator-friendly.”
Other speakers included candidate for Western Student Association president Marshall Kilgore; a representative for the Sunrise Movement, which supports the sweeping clean-energy proposal known as the Green New Deal; and 60th State Representative Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo.