Students participate in global strike for climate change

The+Lehigh+Valley+Climate+Strike+will+be+taking+place+in+Bethlehem+today%2C+September+20%2C+at++2%3A00+p.m.+on+the+steps+of+City+Hall.+%28Photo+From+Pixabay.com%29

The Lehigh Valley Climate Strike will be taking place in Bethlehem today, September 20, at 2:00 p.m. on the steps of City Hall. (Photo From Pixabay.com)

Nathan Kornfeind

People across the world are protesting fossil fuel usage during a global climate strike today and Lafayette College students and staff are joining in and protesting fossil fuel usage.

The planned event mirrors the international “Fridays for Future” movement, which has led millions of students nationwide in skipping school each Friday in the name of climate justice since August of 2018. Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old founder of the campaign, grabbed headlines earlier this month after sailing across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions sailboat.

The BBC reports that the Swedish teenager will appear before the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23, after meeting with members of the United States Congress earlier in the week. In anticipation of this event, participants in Friday’s strike call on others to “disrupt business as usual…and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels,” according to the global climate strike website. 

These goals resonated with a number of students, including the president of the Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection (LEAP) club, Emma Stierhoff  ’20.

“I have been concerned about climate change since I first learned about it in fifth grade, and my concerns have only grown the more I’ve learned about it,” Stierhoff wrote in an email. “This strike is an opportunity to rally around an issue and show our representatives in government that we won’t stand for their lack of action in addressing the climate crisis any more.”

Stierhoff said she learned about Friday’s event through a friend as well as news coverage. She is carpooling with other members of the Lafayette community who are interested in striking. Stierhoff is taking a group of five to the two o’clock strike outside of Bethlehem City Hall.

This event, organized by the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Climate Reality project, is just one of hundreds occurring throughout the country and the globe.

Stierhoff said she also personally knows of people joining a strike in New York City, while the global climate strike website says “people in 150 countries are organizing for the [event] this September.”

“I hope the demonstration makes a statement that [climate change] is something a huge chunk of the population is really concerned about. This is a safety issue,” she said. “[We] need to keep working to strip away all the politics behind it and just do something already.”

This initiative to act quickly is one shared by students and professors alike.

“There isn’t much to debate among the scientific community or concerned citizens of earth,” said Andrea Armstrong, assistant professor of environmental science and studies. “Scientists have been able to document climate change since the 1950s and 60s, and it’s been theorized for over a century. We’ve been seeing the effects of climate change for decades, so the time [for action] is now.”

Armstrong said she supports the strike on Friday and noted that these events give younger people a “seat at the table” with regards to climate policy. While it proves difficult for adults and students alike to get out and protest, she said the main goal is “identifying a piece of the climate movement that resonates with you and pursuing that.” 

For Joseph D’Elia ‘20, one of the five students who will be attending the event with Stierhoff, “the severity of the consequences of climate change” is what sticks with him the most.

Although he will miss an afternoon class to attend the event, D’Elia wrote in an email that “the students and environmental groups on campus have taken so many steps to make [Lafayette] more sustainable, and if some passionate students are able to instill that type of change, I feel extending it out to the community can definitely bring about change.”