Climate change is real. It’s an issue directly impacting the youth. And enough is enough.
This resounding message rang out across Trombley Square as hundreds of Pacific University students, faculty and community members of Forest Grove, Ore. joined forces to speak out against climate change.
The local event was part of the Global Climate Strike, coinciding with the International Day of Peace. Pacific’s sizable turnout joined the likes of approximately 4,500 walkouts and strikes around the world, according to student organizer Karsen Buck.
While speakers were happy to greet a supportive, active audience, their messages carried real weight discussing the disastrous effects of climate change — especially to marginalized communities of color and those of poor backgrounds — and what can be done to stop such damage from continuing.
“Protect, restore and fund this planet,” Buck yelled to an echoing audience. “You vote everyday with your dollar — ask yourself this: Are we going to continue to make mistakes together, or are we going to make change together?”
Beyond Buck and other student leaders, Pacific’s walkout included speakers such as Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie, Director of Center for Peace and Spirituality, & University Chaplain; Narce Rodriguez, Chief Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer; and Juan Carlos González, Metro Councilor.
“If the federal government won’t take action, we’ll take action,” González said. “I’m inspired by this community and everyone’s environmentally conscious actions, but we need a concerted effort from everyone.”
González, student organizer Seema Khatcherian and Pacific alum Marissa Eckman all spoke in depth on how environmental issues often hurt those of color most while society simultaneously ignores their efforts to improve the earth and revert back to more sustainable, conservative practices.
Khatcherian led a land acknowledgement as well on behalf of Pacific, known for its complicated Native American history. An in-depth look at this can be found online at pacificu.edu/about/media/tragic-collision-cultures and in Pacific’s second-to-last print magazine.
This point was echoed by student attendees Alexandra Kendrick, Roya Tahmassebi and Lydia Malcom who all stressed the United States needed to step up, learn from other cultures and begin to recognize the earth was not created for human use and consumption.
“The earth was here long before us, and we act like it’s ours when it’s not,” Malcom said. “Culturally there are so many places on this earth we can learn from and do so much better [environmentally] than we are now,” Kendrick added.
Student speakers like Alecia Boehlke were not afraid to call out Pacific’s own leadership when addressing what can be done to better serve the student body and reverse its own negative environmental impacts.
“Our administration has been cowardly and continues to ignore us,” Boehlke said. “But we refuse to be quiet, we refuse to shut up.”
Boehlke also noted Pacific no longer has a strong composting base nor offers an indigenous studies minor as it did when the now senior began her studies at the university. She listed Pacific’s trustees in her short speech and urged students to keep talking and fighting for large-scale campus change.
Other speakers messages included those of encouragement sprinkled with advice on how to reduce one’s carbon footprint, cut down on waste and consider individual environmental impacts. Those interested in more helpful information such as this can reach out to Pacific’s own Center for a Sustainable Society lead by Michelle Larkins and located on the second floor of Scott Hall.
Tips and tricks can also be found on their webpage at pacificu.edu/academics/academic-support/centers-institutes/center-sustainable-society.