Climate activists and students from several organizations gathered on the parade ground and marched Friday to the LSU Foundation building for a climate change rally.

According to international studies manager Emily Clarke, president of the student climate activist organization Geaux Green, the main purpose of the march, referred to by organizers as the climate march, was to persuade the LSU foundation to withdraw fossil fuel fund.

The climate walk also aimed to raise awareness and educate LSU students about programs sponsored by organizations such as Geaux Green, Climate Pelicans and Geaux Planet to fight climate change, said Cheyenne Austin, manager of management systems of the environment.

Austin, the event organizer, said she had been planning the rally since the first week of school. She quickly got in touch with Clarke, who helped book the parade ground, various gear for the rally, as well as outreach.

“I want to impact people by educating them about how their actions affect their environment, and therefore the planet,” Austin said. “How small negative actions like littering have much bigger effects. And how recycling has a positive impact on the environment.

Rally organizer Cheyenne Austin speaks to those gathered Friday, November 18, 2022 at the LSU Parade Ground before the start of the march.

She said she wanted people to understand the importance of unity within the community and that collective action is the only way for communities to make a difference in the fight against climate change.

Austin said the climate march sends a message to the LSU administration to prioritize sustainability within the community, such as recycling on game days, educating students about what can be recycled, the implementation of biodegradable packaging rather than plastic and better global education on the climate crisis.

Clarke said she was an environmentalist at heart, which was the driving force behind her decision to get involved in the rally.

“It’s my true passion to do something good for the environment,” Clarke said. “Through the environment, I want to help communities.”

She said Geaux Green’s focus takes a holistic view of sustainability. Geaux Green’s mission is based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: no poverty, no hunger, access to health care, education and inequality, climate action, access to clean water and access to a clean environment, according to Clarke.

Clarke said the climate march raises awareness for environmental justice.

“It’s easy for apathy to take hold,” Clarke said. “To see people caring about environmental justice persuade[s] people to learn about it.

Clarke said she hopes that after the Climate Walk, LSU and the LSU Foundation will collaborate more with students to create a better future for students and future generations.

“We won’t stop taking action and we want LSU and [the] administration [to] work with us,” Clarke said.

Corrine Salters, graduate student in coastal science, and Ben Farmer, PhD student in oceanography, created Climate Pelicans in 2021 as an interdisciplinary group of climate activists focused on climate justice and social justice.

“I didn’t see any activist groups around campus and decided to start it ourselves,” Salters said.

Climate Rally 2022

Protesters chant Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, outside the LSU Foundation building on Nicholson Drive in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Salters said their involvement in the Climate March will show the administration that there is a student body that is not interested in investing funds and LSU’s strong connection to the fossil fuel industry.

“The fossil fuel industry is degrading the environment that many communities in Baton Rouge depend on,” Salters said.

Farmer said the Climate Walk is a lasting legacy for LSU students to impact environmental change.

Jill Tupitza, a PhD candidate in oceanography and coastal science, is leading the Climate Pelicans cession campaign and did a lot of outreach for the event.

The Climate Pelicans divestment campaign is asking the LSU Foundation to divest the financial assets of fossil fuel companies, according to Tupitza. She said divesting financial stakes would limit fossil fuel companies’ profits and their license to operate in Louisiana.

“It’s the South saying ‘We’re kicking you out,'” Tupitza said. “It is so important to bring the voice of climate justice to a region like the Deep South that has been ravaged by fossil fuel corporations. To have voices within this state that put climate justice at the forefront of priorities of the state instead of a profit is powerful.

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