Students Demand Climate Action From UMich, Demand University Place ‘People Over Profit’

More than 100 students gathered on the Friday afternoon of Diag in a global climate strike organized by Fridays for Future, a youth-led organization dedicated to fighting climate change. The theme of Friday’s strike was “People Before Profit” and speakers called for climate action centered on social justice.

The event kicked off with live music and educational booths on topics including the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the ongoing indigenous Landback movement and ways to combat climate change. climate change through public policies.

Speakers from various student and local organizations then addressed the attendees, emphasizing the importance of clean energy and climate justice.

LSA sophomore Lexi Crilley emphasized the theme of “People Over Profit” in her speech Friday afternoon.

“Climate justice is social, economic and political justice on all fronts,” Crilley said. “It’s racial justice, it’s gender equality – and that can’t be achieved without tackling the complex systems of oppression that have created all these problems.”

Greg Woodring, president of Ann Arbor for Public Power (AAPP), spoke about the importance of transitioning to a public utility instead of depending on a private company. The AAPP organization advocates for a shift to a clean, renewable, City-owned Ann Arbor energy grid. Currently, the city’s electricity is supplied by Detroit-based DTE Energy, with about half of the company’s electricity supply generated by coal.

“We can say that we are no longer going to allow a private corporation controlled by a small group of callous and indifferent people to determine what the fate of this world will be,” Woodring said. “We can invest in our future, we can build a new paradigm and we can say that we are no longer going to accept the world as it is.”

Other speakers expressed frustration with the University of Michigan’s lack of communication and collaboration with students on climate justice, given the substantial efforts made by student organizations at the University.

Young engineer Brendan Ireland said he was frustrated with the University’s lack of progress on carbon neutrality and other climate goals despite pledging to be carbon neutral by 2040 in May 2021.

“Just meeting the IPCC targets is really not enough,” Ireland said. “If we are meant to be the leaders and the best, we have a responsibility not only to achieve the goals, but also to help others achieve the goals.”

Senior engineer Martin Chown, director of research and development for Students for Clean Energy, recounted a proposal he helped create as a freshman, which called on the University to build a block-shaped solar panel “M” to symbolize the commitment of the University. to carbon neutrality.

“We have confirmed that the project is feasible with solar contractors,” Chown said. “We even raised $100,000 for the project. And yet, here I am, three and a half years later, no “M” block solar panel. »

Chown said he thought it was emblematic of the University’s reluctance to take student concerns seriously.

“It took three and a half years for this university to process a legitimate student project on carbon neutrality,” Chown said. “It took three and a half years for this university to recognize passionate students with innovative ideas and fully investigate the plan…I think our experience shows that this university does not seem to appreciate how the climate crisis is affecting people. people of our generation and our need to tackle it urgently and aggressively.

LSA senior Zackariah Farah said he felt it was crucial for the Board of Regents to sit down with student groups and take their concerns seriously.

“Being willing to sit with us in a meeting, and not just give us rhetoric, … not just give us platitudes would be really nice,” Farah said. “(The Board of Regents) should come to the table. They should come to these meetings prepared to listen to us and act on our recommendations.

Ireland then read an open letter signed by more than 15 environmental groups calling on the university’s board and administration to prioritize sustainability and climate justice, especially regarding new hires and the appointment of university leaders.

In March 2021, the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality (PCCN) released its final report with 50 recommendations to put the University of Michigan on track to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. The open letter calls the University to be more transparent when it comes to its progress on PCCN goals.

“We, the undersigned, expect real, quantifiable, and consistently communicated results with respect to the university’s commitments to divest from fossil fuels as well as the transition to carbon neutrality as set forth by the President’s Commission on carbon neutral,” the letter read. “We are deeply troubled by Scope 1 2040’s insufficient commitment to neutrality, which is inconsistent with the A2ZERO goals of our wider community, as well as the international recommendations of the UN IPCC reports.”

Outside the Fleming Administration Building, students chanted “We are unstoppable; a better world is possible. Eight copies of the letter were dropped off in the building’s mailbox, each addressed to one of the eight regents. University administrators moved into the new Ruthven Museums building last month; the Fleming Building is scheduled to be demolished later this semester.

Farah went on to point out the University’s failure to take substantial action to address climate change and the indifference he has observed from the board of trustees on the issue.

“The University of Michigan should be a leader in many areas, including climate justice and climate action, but it’s absolutely not,” Farah said. “I’m very frustrated at the moment, but seeing this rally, feeling the energy, I have a lot of hope again.”

Daily reporters Samantha Rich and Irena Li can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]

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