Dressed in Mother Earth, Sarah Younger and a group of 20 students gathered outside the Union Reitz on the University of Florida campus on Thursday.
“Your mom is here just to let you know that she loves you,” said Younger, president of the Suwannee St. Johns Group Sierra Club.
The group was there to protest the University of Florida’s use of prison labor, the climate crisis, and to raise awareness of related issues Florida residents face, such as extreme weather, food injustice, lack of clean energy and threats to drinking water.
Inside Reitz Union, chants such as “Gator Dining, shame on you, food workers deserve rights too” echoed through the hallways as protesters marched with placards, encouraging incoming students to do not buy meal plans while they were in line to get quotes for Contract Food.
“There is no environmental justice without food justice, without racial justice,” said Abby Forsyth, vice president of Florida PIRG Students, which advocates for various issues of public interest, such as food safety, education. and affordable health care.
Forsyth spoke about the importance of student power and the need for everyone to tackle the “larger than life” issues facing Earth.
“Everything that makes life in Florida so amazing is under threat from climate change, our coastline, the Everglades, even Paynes Prairie,” Forsyth said. “We’re already seeing these impacts: There are more severe storms, statewide flooding and record heat year after year. “
Through campaigns with Florida PIRG students, Forsyth and other members of state are calling on college campuses to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2040. This semester their goal was to achieve 100% commitment from UF President Kent Fuchs and the Board of Directors. by December 2022. So far, the group has collected over 900 petition signatures, received approval from faculty and other student groups, and recently the student government passed the resolution.
Matthew Williams, director of UF’s Office of Sustainability, reached out to Florida PIRG student president Evan Smith for a meeting to discuss incorporating their resolution into a new climate action plan on the campus.
The student activist efforts echo nationwide efforts to tackle climate change. On Tuesday, US Senator Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, and US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, reintroduced the Green New Deal just two years after its initial publication. The resolution’s current goal is to generate 100% of the country’s electricity demand from renewable resources and make the country carbon neutral by 2030. The announcement came in the middle of the introduction by Ocasio-Cortez of various climate-related bills this week in Congress, such as the Green New Deal for public housing. The bill provides for the investment of 172 billion dollars over 10 years to create 240,000 jobs per year and convert public housing into energy-efficient, zero-carbon developments.
On Thursday, Markey and U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velazquez, D-New York, also reintroduced legislation that would create a U.S. resettlement pathway for climate displacement victims and create a government-wide coordinator position. for climate resilience. It would also provide training for foreign service officers on climate change resilience and establish a global climate change resilience strategy.
In a statement, Markey said the climate crisis disproportionately affects women, children, indigenous peoples and people of color. These people often lack protection under the United States. or international law because they do not meet the American definition of a refugee. Therefore, access to resettlement opportunities is impossible.
President Joseph Biden’s $ 2 trillion infrastructure plan includes sweeping resolutions to tackle climate change, such as improving and upgrading transit systems, sewage, water drinking water and rainwater, as well as the elimination of 100% of the country’s lead pipes.
“We have known about the water problems in this country for far too long,” said Alex Smock, HUB coordinator of the Gainesville chapter of the Sunrise Movement, an American youth-led organization that advocates for political action on climate change. “Everyone in this country deserves to have access to safe drinking water. “
But Smock and other activists said the Biden administration’s plan was not enough.
“It’s not big enough, we have to dream big,” Younger said. “It has always been, ‘Get fat or get out’. “
Younger encouraged those gathered for the Earth Day event to think about getting their message out.
“How to get the message beyond those of us here today,” she said. “It should be year round. It shouldn’t be just one day.