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YYC for a Green New Deal and Students for Direct Action challenge students to support Global Climate Strike

By Kristy Koehler, September 20 2019—

Students for Direct Action and YYC for a Green New Deal have been canvassing the campus community, looking to enlist support for next week’s Global Climate Strike.

The groups and their volunteers painted their message on the rock on Thursday to raise awareness for the strike, and are hoping that they’re joined in walking out of classes on Sept. 27.

“Global Climate Week started today and we’re hoping to build some momentum for the final day, on the 27th, to do a class walkout,” said computer science student and Students for Direct Action organizer Preston Haffey. “I feel like the issue of climate change has been around for a really long time and there’s a lot of people who believe that it’s something that needs to be addressed, but their will isn’t really being expressed in actions.”

Haffey was helping to hand out flyers and assist students with how to go about walking out. He recommended that students talk to their professors about their intention to participate.

“We don’t want it to be a scary thing for people to do, but we also want them to know that there are a lot of other people who feel the same way and are prepared to stand with them if they want to take action,” said Haffey. 

Basil Jose, a graduate student, was one of a dozen or so volunteers helping to canvass. He said his own experiences with the impacts of climate change motived him to take action and that volunteering was the least he could do.

“I come from India and my part of the country was faced with deluges and floods for the past two years,” said Jose. ”We used to have monsoons over a two-month period, but for the last two years, all the two-months rain was happening in one week. I had a personal experience with climate change repercussions.”

Photo by Cole McCracken

For first-time canvasser Bianca Pollock, it was the desire to have a family that motivated the kinesiology student to take part.  

“I was recently thinking a lot about my future and having a family — I’m in a serious relationship,” said Pollock. “How am I going to have a kid and an amazing future for them if there’s no future? This is my first time doing anything like this. I dipped my foot in and it’s fun. It’s exciting that we’re talking about things changing.”

Peter Driftmier, also a U of C student, is an organizer with YYC for a Green New Deal. He says now is the time to grow a strong student movement. 

“We’re asking students to be brave and strong and walk out of their classes,” he said, indicating that the students he’s heard from have said their professors largely support them walking out of class.  

Driftmier offered up another challenge — this time for the Graduate Students’ Association and Students’ Union.

“We’d like to challenge the GSA and the SU to support the walkouts and support bold climate action and act like student unions on this issue,” he said.

This morning, Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president academic, sent an email to all students regarding Climate Week.

“We will not be cancelling classes for any of these events, rather participation in these activities will be left at the discretion of individual students, faculty and staff,” read the email.

Marshall also cited the university’s commitment to sustainability, referencing that U of C is “currently ranked second in Canada and tenth among North American doctoral institutions for sustainability performance under the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), which is the most broadly used assessment tool for post-secondary education institutions.”

The walkout is scheduled for Sept. 27 at 10:30 a.m, between the pond and the arch in front of MacHall. The group then plans to head to City Hall at noon. 

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