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Kalamazoo students demonstrate with teacher on hunger strike

Two students hold handmade signs with messages about the urgency of climate change
Sehvilla Mann

Students at Kalamazoo Central High School demonstrated by Drake Road Wednesday to support a teacher who was on the third day of a weeklong hunger strike.

Josh Gottlieb, who teaches physics at the school, is protesting likely cuts to President Joe Biden’s plan for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. After going more than 50 hours without food, Gottlieb said was tired, and of course, hungry.

“I was telling some of these guys I could just destroy some Taco Bell right now, but it could be worse,” he said.

Students line a sidewalk, raising their hands in a "honk" gesture
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK
Students urge a motorist to honk.

Gottlieb was seated while students walked by the road, gesturing for motorists to honk (many did). Many students brought signs urging action on climate change, including 10th grader Ciara Smith.

“It says, ‘act now or die later,’ Smith said, “And it says ‘it is all of our problem.’ And it shows a picture of a polar bear on a melting iceberg.”

Does Smith think Gottlieb’s crazy to go without food for a week?

“Yes,” she said, “But I mean, he’s trying to make a point, so he’s doing whatever he can.”

Sophomore Taisia Thomas says Gottlieb’s right to worry about the effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

“It all moves around. So it’s going to end up affecting us worldwide. There’s something, I know there’s something we can do about it.”

Former K-Central student Patrick Darling stayed when the students had to go back to class. Darling said he read a news story about the Gottlieb’s hunger strike.

A man with a beard holds a sign above his head that says the planet is not "renewable." Gottlieb is seated, wearing dark clothes including a hood.
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK
Former K-Central student Patrick Darling, left, and Josh Gottlieb, who's in the third day of a hunger strike.

“I thought hmmm, well, someone’s got to keep him company,” Darling said.

Gottlieb said he was inspired by climate activists who launched an indefinite hunger strike near the White House about a week ago.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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