Pacific University plays host to 'Climate Strike'
Hundreds of students, faculty and community members crowded into Trombley Square on the campus of Pacific University early Friday afternoon, Sept. 20, for a rally to demand action against climate change.
One of hundreds of "Climate Strike" rallies being held across the United States, and one of thousands around the world, the rally in Forest Grove featured colorful signs, flags and even a papier-mâchÉ puppet inspired by Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream." The event was organized by Pacific students working with the Washington County chapter of 350.org, which also organized a Friday rally in downtown Hillsboro.
Carrie Friedman, one of the event organizers, said she had mixed emotions at seeing the turnout on campus.
"There's a simple part of me that, despite the very impressive crowd that's standing before me, is just asking, 'Why isn't everyone here? What could you possibly be doing that will matter if you don't have a planet that can sustain us?' Climate change should be our number-one, most urgent priority," Friedman said, to cheers and applause. "But there's another part of me that's fighting that, saying that, yeah, not everyone is here, but there are over 4,500 strikes going on around the world today. This, that we're participating in, is the largest environmental protest in the history of the world."
Metro Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzalez, an invited speaker at the event, said that despite the dire predictions that human activity will lead to catastrophic changes in the Earth's climate, he has hope for the future in part because of the type of youth activism he saw on display at Pacific Friday afternoon.
"We can do so much to combat climate change here," he urged.
"This is a generational issue," said student Karsen Buck, "so I have a voice, and I'm going to use it."
Buck and other speakers called on attendees to be conscientious about their own behavior, including their spending habits.
"We have the chance to make sustainable actions," Buck said. "I know it is hard. Every day we see and feel a new challenge. But are we going to continue to make mistakes together, or are we going to make change together?"
More than one speaker noted the relationship between indigenous peoples and climate activism. While American and European climate advocates — like Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who led a large climate rally in New York City on Friday — have gotten much of the attention within the movement to stop human-caused global warming, many of the largest forecasted impacts of sea level rise, ocean acidification, drought, wildfires, intense storms and other natural disasters that accompany a warming climate will affect people living in developing countries, especially poor people in rural areas. Many of them, including the Oglala Lakota Nation that protested the construction of a pipeline through ancestral lands in South Dakota here in the United States, have also become activists to protect their lands and their livelihoods.
Climate experts agree that human activity — namely, greenhouse gas emissions from combustion engines, farms, power plants and other sources — is leading to the rapid warming of the Earth's climate. Data indicates the warming trend has been fairly steady since the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, and that it has only accelerated since the mid-20th century.
However, despite the scientific consensus, the idea of a human cause to climate change still hasn't been universally acknowledged. In the United States, President Donald Trump and many other Republican politicians are openly skeptical, casting aspersions on the conclusions reached by NASA, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and other federal and international agencies.
Some of the speakers at Pacific on Friday ridiculed the political opposition to climate action.
"Are we going to learn and listen to politicians, or climate experts and scientists?" Buck asked rhetorically, comparing the decision to choosing to learn how to play basketball from her mom or from NBA superstar LeBron James.
Following the rally on campus, a group of youth set out to march along downtown sidewalks, chanting and holding signs. Some passing drivers honked in support.
Pacific has a rich history of student activism, including protests in Trombley Square and outside the nearby Tim & Cathy Tran Library. Students at Pacific previously held a walkout in March as part of a worldwide "Youth Climate Strike" movement.
By Mark Miller
Washington County Editor
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