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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Local activists march for ‘climate justice’

Lizzie Tomlin
Students for a Sustainable Campus led a march through Starkville.

“What do we want? Climate Justice. When do we want it? Now!” students chanted, hoisting painted cardboard signs and megaphones overhead.

Students for a Sustainable Campus (SSC) at Mississippi State University held its 5th annual Climate March on Saturday, marching from Lee Hall to Unity Park to push for more environmentally sustainable practices throughout Starkville.

“The Earth has a fever, and the only prescription is climate justice,” one sign read.

As the group made its way down University Drive, some passersby yelled phrases like “More diesel!” and revved their truck engines.

SSC president Grant Peterson said the march allowed students to spread awareness of climate issues and advocate for changes in the community.

“There’s been a strong history of young people protesting throughout history, but especially in the Civil Rights era, the Vietnam era, and now the climate change era,” Peterson said. “And these protests have had a great positive effect in the past and of increasing awareness and getting our government to take action to face these threats.”

MSU SSC members Emma Van Epps and Grant Peterson. (Ivy Rose Ball)

The climate march included many persistent chants as a catchy way of speaking to those walking the streets, including “We need clean air, not another billionaire,” and “Global warming is a war of the rich upon the poor.”

At the head of the large group, Peterson spoke into a microphone, leading rhymes about climate change, fossil fuels, government accountability and the overall need for change.

Peterson said young people have agency in improving climate issues.

“As a whole, especially as young people, we’re going to live in a world that’s different from the world our parents grew up in, a world that’s filled with a lot of uncertainty,” Peterson said. “So, doing everything we can now to be prepared for climate change and be resilient is going to make our future a lot easier.”

Peterson encouraged those who want to join the effort to consider joining the SSC. He specified other ways to contribute to the cause.

“You don’t have to come to meetings to be a student for a sustainable campus. You can be one by coming to our events, like the Climate March or just doing your part on more sustainable recycling on campus,” Peterson said. “You could start by trying to switch to a more planet-friendly diet, taking the smart bus or carpooling instead of driving your own car. There’s lots of things students can do on campus.”

Julia Null, an attending senior wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major, was also involved in a previous march. She believes climate issues are urgent.

“I’m here to support a cause that’s important to me. I think climate change is extremely consequential, where if we don’t address it now, then it’s only going to get worse,” Null said. “It’s important to bring attention to this matter because not everybody is involved with individuals who have proper resources and have a lot of information on the topic.”

Along the march, there were a few stops for participants to rest and listen to dedicated speakers. John Fortuin, a dedicated environmentalist who participated in the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City, spoke to the group about his research on sustainability.

“Sustainability on campus is really a guidepost towards a better world. Educational institutions, especially colleges, are supposed to provide young people with examples of best practices in every field of human endeavor, including sustainable practices,” Fortuin said. “I have faith in people power, and especially these rising leaders here today from Students for Sustainable Campus. They have a vision for implementing best practices on our campus and in Starkville.”

As the walk concluded, and the participants passed Starkville City Hall, their chants increased in volume. They made their way to Unity Park and sat with their signs held high as they prepared to list their demands of MSU and Starkville.

“Students for a Sustainable Campus believes that together, Mississippi State and Starkville can push each other to work smarter and harder to foster an environmentally friendly community,” Peterson said. “As a higher learning institution and cultural hub, Mississippi State must demonstrate leadership on climate and sustainability issues by utilizing all available resources on campus and making sustainable choices more accessible for its students.”

They urged MSU to hire a coordinator with a technical background to lead the university’s Office of Sustainability, disallow use of MSU branding on Styrofoam products and provide clearly labeled cardboard recycling dumpsters in an accessible area outside of dorms during move-in.

The SSC demanded that Starkville reinstate curbside recycling services and that the city pass a local ordinance stating that city landscapers should use only shrubs and trees native to the Southeastern United States.

Peterson ended the march by thanking the participants and announcing the organization’s willingness to work with the city and campus to enact change.

“The more steps we take now to create a resilient, environmentally friendly community, the less work we will have in to do in the future,” Peterson said. “Part of putting in the work now is creating a culture of sustainability in Starkville and Mississippi State.”

About the Contributor
Lizzie Tomlin
Lizzie Tomlin, Staff Writer
Lizzie Tomlin is a senior political science major. Lizzie is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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