We’ve all heard of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., but beyond these names what do we really know about peaceful protest? Nonviolent protesting is the act of expressing disapproval through a verbal or nonverbal statement without the use of force. While often viewed as less influential, it can, in fact, be more effective than other forms of resistance. Thanks to our first amendment rights we have the ability to make our opinions clear though peaceful protesting. The government cannot take away the public’s right to say what they think, but they can arrest individuals on charges such as disorderly conduct or destruction of property. By using peaceful resistance, protesters can protect themselves under the law while still encouraging change.
Thankfully, organizations across the globe such as 350.org, Climate Solutions, GreenPeace USA, and the Alliance for Climate Education have come together in an effort against climate change by striking: the temporary suspension of work or other activities in hopes of cultivating change or gaining attention. Recently, 350.org partnered with youths and adults everywhere to organize climate strikes from September 20-27th, with the main strikes taking place the 20th and 27th, the first in hopes of influencing the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit on the 23rd.
Here at Simon’s Rock, a chapter of the youth-led organization called the Sunrise Movement is dedicated to ensuring that students are given the opportunity to participate in strikes such as these. At their latest meeting, Sunrise came together to organize a day of opportunity for students to get involved. Rockers were urged to strike from their morning classes if possible and attend a rally in town followed by a teach-in and open mic event on campus. Everyone was encouraged to wear blue to show their support and participation in the movement.
In the words of Chance Reeves, current head of the Sunrise Movement chapter on campus, “Club members ... left the meeting with the goal to make sure Great Barrington doesn’t go a day without hearing the words Green New Deal.”
Aside from efforts to make themselves seen on the 20th, students are hosting events on campus to get people involved. Jessie Parrott hosted a climate crisis open circle in order to “get people talking about [Climate Change] more, and asking questions about it if they’re curious, and sharing their knowledge basis.” In addition, the Sunrise Movement is planning a screening of a documentary on a climate change activist and will continue to discuss and oppose the issue.
On the other hand, some students believe that activities such as strikes are more harmful than helpful. First-year Leon Goldner Coen Tzedek expressed his support for the movement, but also his doubt regarding the true influence of such actions. He said, “I can do more by actually learning something and fixing the world than by skipping class.”
Regardless of differing opinions on the most effective method of reform, there is no debate that Simon’s Rock is putting up a fight against Climate Change. But what can we as individuals do? Maybe you’re not prepared to go vegan or give up single-use plastic, but there is plenty you can do with little-to-no inconvenience:
Together we will do what we can and lend our efforts, which are “central to achieving mitigation and adaptation objectives,” as stated by the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Report
Of course, it is important to note that while it is important that we do what we can, climate change is not caused by the individual. We can ban straws, but we must also be aware that according to a recent article, these straws account for only 0.02% of the plastic waste (by weight) in the ocean. In fact, according to Climatic Change by Richard Heede, “...nearly two-thirds of historic carbon dioxide and methane emissions can be attributed to 90 entities.” While destructive behavior on an individual basis cannot go unaddressed, we must recognize that the majority of our crisis stems from detrimental and systematic behavior from corporations with a greater desire for monetary success than global safety and well-being.
At the end of the day, all individuals can do is make an effort to improve. Whether that means attending the strike on the 20th or participating in other events to raise awareness, we must come together to fight against the climate crisis and help preserve the world we live in.
Elizabeth Selberg, a contributer to The Cad.