Students rally for climate justice

Photo by Katie Reynolds ’19 Students gathered on Skinner Green to advocate for climate justice in a rally featuring student speakers. 

Photo by Katie Reynolds ’19
Students gathered on Skinner Green to advocate for climate justice in a rally featuring student speakers. 

BY ANNA SHORTRIDGE ’19

The Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition held a climate justice rally, “Climate Justice is Social Justice," on Oct. 14. The rally’s aim was to showcase climate justice’s relationship to all social justice issues on personal, community and global levels.

Gathered outside of Blanchard Cam- pus Center on Skinner Green, attendees listened as organizers chanted, “No exchanges, no refunds, climate damage can’t be undone!” and “Hey MHC, can’t you see that there’s no planet B?”.

Part of the group’s focus was to edu- cate the campus about divestment, or the process of withdrawing the college’s money from investments in fossil fuels, and reinvesting it in more sustainable industries.

The event drew a diverse crowd both from within the Mount Holyoke community and from across the Five College area — members of the Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition, interested Mount Holyoke students, supporters from the Five College and faculty.

The rally also drew four student speakers from diverse backgrounds. These students shared different stories of intersectionality between climate and social justice.

On behalf of the Mount Holyoke College Animal Welfare Association, Stella Elwood ’19 spoke about the intersection of animal rights and climate justice. Elwood addressed the impact of factory farms on the environment. “Factory farms produce massive amounts of animal waste, which eventually turn into toxic runoff, polluting groundwater and thousands of miles of river,” Elwood explained.

Moreover, Elwood informed the crowd of how these factory farms disproportionately affect low-income and black individuals, as the animal waste toxins catch wind and drift to nearby homes, primarily in communities dominantly inhabited by these groups.

“I could go on all day about the injustices that humans and the environment face, in addition to the non-human animals, at the hands of factory farmers,” Elwood said.

Speaking next, from Amherst College’s Divest Amherst, was senior Brian Beaty. Beaty stressed collaboration and cooperation between the Five Colleges to make further progress toward divestment.

“The only way we can move forward with this kind of campaign is if all Five Colleges collaborate together,” Beaty explained.

Beaty also noted that Five College students should strive to learn from the two successful divestment campaigns in the Five College system: Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, which fully divested from fossil fuels last semester. “We don’t want this issue to solely be an issue about preserving the earth, it’s also about preserving the people and front-line communities,” Beaty said.

The third student speaker, Raven Geiger ’17 of the Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition, focused more specifically on how climate justice is social justice. Geiger cited climate change’s negative impact on both physical and mental health, its negative impact on people of color and low-income individuals and the consequences of fossil fuel dependence by industrial nations on poor countries.

Geiger then called upon the audience, asking, “What reasons call to you that climate justice is social justice?” After engaging in this open dialogue, Geiger concluded by stating, “Together, we can shift the narrative to say: We need climate justice. We need housing justice. We need racial justice. We need social justice.”

The final speaker of the rally, Julia Worcester ’17, an organizer for the Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition, gave a modified version of the speech that the coalition presented to the board of trustees on Sept. 28. Worcester ended the speech by imploring Mount Holyoke to stand true to its mission.

“It’s time to lead,” she said. 

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