Several dozen Northwestern students, faculty and community members braved piercing winds and biting cold to hear various speakers and performers speaking out about climate change.
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who describes herself as a “strong environmentalist,” delivered the opening speech, urging students to take ownership of efforts to counteract climate change and to act immediately. Several attendants cheered and clapped when Schakowsky condemned the inaction of Congress, saying that more pressure must come from the younger generation.
Other appearances included a performance by Chicago-based slam poet Keith "Blu" Warfield and speeches from Henry Henderson, the Midwest Director of the National Resources Defense Council; chemistry professor Dick Co, a co-founder of the Solar Fuels Institute that aims to create a carbon-neutral fuel; and McCormick junior Major Zeng, a student from Beijing who hopes to engineer a world in which her hometown’s air is safe to breathe.
Speaking from the Norris lawn on a blustery Friday evening, Schakowsky’s charge for millennials facing the growing impacts of climate change was clear: “This happens to be your century,” she said. “You own it and now you need to take leadership in fixing it.”
It was an idea that permeated the Knows Tomorrow Rally for Climate Justice on Friday night. The rally was part of the national Know Tomorrow Campaign, which included over 60 similar rallies and events on college campuses across the United States, according to campaign founder and Kellogg graduate Wendy Abrams.
The campaign calls on college students to demand action from world leaders in anticipation of the UN Climate Change Conference that will take place in Paris this December, where delegates will attempt to come to consensus on a universal plan of action combatting climate change. Past conferences, including the 2014 conference in Peru, have not led to significant or binding policy reforms that would mitigate the effects of climate change.
For event organizer and SESP junior Christina Cilento, the goal of the event was not just to raise awareness for climate issues, but to inspire students to take action.
“Environmentalism isn’t really ingrained into Northwestern’s culture,” Cilento said. At the rally, she pointed out that Sodexo hadn’t met requests for reusable dinnerware at the event.
School of Communication senior Kate Gladstone, another organizer of the rally, echoed Cilento’s sentiments. “I just don’t see people living their day to day lives with [sustainability] on the forefront of their brain, which is what I would love to see,” Gladstone said. “Ultimately if we’re being realistic, integrating sustainability into the fabric of campus culture means making sustainability convenient for people.”
At the end of the event, attendees were invited to write their thoughts on several feet of butcher paper, describing what inspired them at the rally and what they think can be done to better organize students in the future.
Weinberg freshman Ellery Stritzinger drew inspiration from the sense of community that comes from working towards a common goal. In purple crayon, she added “It’s fun to help our planet with other people” to the paper.
“When [helping the planet] is a movement, it becomes easier to commit to it,” Stritzinger said. “It’s easier than to stand alone.”
This article was updated on Oct. 6, 2015 at 9:40 a.m. to correct a factual error. NBN regrets this mistake.