Student activists gathered outside Sophia Gordon Hall to attend a second global climate strike on Friday. The Tufts contingent, organized by Sunrise Movement Tufts in conjunction with Tufts Climate Action (TCA) called on world leaders to work to end climate change. This event follows the strike that occurred on Sept. 20 earlier this semester.
A new student group which formed this semester, the Indigenous Students Organization at Tufts (ISOT), represented at the strike by Cyrus Kirby and Jonah Apo, kicked off the event with both a land acknowledgment and an indigenous perspective on climate change.
Kirby, a sophomore, read a statement acknowledging Tufts‘ presence on Wampanoag, Pawtucket and Massachusett land.
“We and the university need to acknowledge this fact and disseminate information about this fact, and let this fact inform our decision making,” Kirby said.
Apo, a sophomore, framed the fight to stop climate change as an indigenous fight, highlighting the fact that many indigenous communities globally emphasize the importance and connection to the land they live on. Apo pointed to the fact that many indigenous communities, although they tend to contribute less to the climate crisis, are often the first to be affected by climate change.
“I know especially on Oahu where I live, I see each year like the tide rising, more beaches are getting washed away. It’s going up onto some roads I drive on,” Apo said. “I think on Oahu and Hawaii there’s more time, but these small island nations, these small atolls … the tides are slowly going to wash them away and pretty soon they’re gonna have to move somewhere.”
First-year Athena Nair, a member of Sunrise Movement Tufts, described the impact that climate change has had on her parents’ home state in India, Kerala, where massive floods occurred last year, killing hundreds and leaving even more stranded.
“[The floods] were the worst in over a century. Schools were shut down and the airport closed. People’s rice and tea and coffee plantations were just devastated, so people’s sources of incomes were destroyed,” Nair said. “I remember sitting in my living room back in California as my mom was reading off the news on her phone, and I felt shocked and horrified and helpless.”
Nair spoke about the extent to which the floods affected her family, some of whom needed to be evacuated, while others were left behind to wade through contaminated water that rose to their chins.
“All these big corporations and leaders are pouring money into fossil fuel and they’re poisoning the earth, but they’re not the ones being poisoned,” she said. “It’s my family, the most marginalized people, the people who take care of the earth the most that are being poisoned, and that isn’t fair.”
Nair emphasized that people need to take action and protest, adding that the strike should be a source of hope given the previous success of prior protests.
Carrie Haynes, a member of JumboVote, a nonpartisan group that registers students to vote and encourages civic engagement, spoke next. She encouraged students, including those who are not eligible to vote, to be as engaged as possible through actions like protests and calling representatives.
“You all are striking to show that you care about your community, to show leaders of this university and our state and our country that you want change, that you want a better future,” Haynes, a junior, said.
Members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Molly Tunis, Leila Skinner and Bridget Dick spoke and reaffirmed the land acknowledgment that Kirby had read out earlier in the event. Tunis then read an excerpt by Palestinian scholar Muna Dajani, who emphasized the importance of speaking out and acting against climate change in the context of Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“Climate change and military occupation work together to impact both the amount of water people have access to and who controls it,” Dick, a first year, said.
When SJP concluded, members of the Latin American Committee, Francisco Salazar and Sara Torres, took the stage. Salazar urged the university to divest from fossil fuels.
“[The university is] always talking about investing in our future because they’re invested in fossil fuels to return to profit,” Salazar, a first year, said. “But we’re not interested in that, are we?”
Salazar highlighted several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, which has pledged to use entirely renewable energy by 2030. But Salazar also pointed to worrying areas, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s allowing ranchers in the Amazon to burn large swaths of the forest down.
Torres, a senior, emphasized the fact that climate change is leading to global migration through “climate refugees,” who do not yet fit under the global standard definition for refugees.
“There’s a lot of people in Central America, in South America, who have been displaced because of climate change because they rely on agriculture and they are living in droughts,” she said. “In addition, you see Puerto Rico, you see the Bahamas that were super impacted by Hurricanes Maria and Dorian.”
Members of TCA echoed Salazar in calling on the university to divest from fossil fuels. The group celebrated its recent victory in the administration, where Executive Vice President Michael Howard and the Board of Trustees announced the creation of a responsible investment advisory group, which would allow stakeholders in the university to scrutinize university investments.
“This small victory could not have been won without the persistent dedicated work of our past and present student activists,” a TCA member said.
The strikers then marched to Davis Square, taking the Red Line to Boston and eventually storming the statehouse to demand that state lawmakers do more to combat climate change. In particular, students focused on a set of bills, including one that would make Massachusetts energy completely renewable by 2045, according to The Boston Globe.
The next strike will be around April 20, according to a member of TCA who spoke at the event.