“An amazing historic moment”: UMD students to join the Global Climate Strike

Students gather at the Main Administration Building to encourage the university to invest in clean, fossil free energy and commit to carbon neutrality by 2025. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

University of Maryland students will join millions around the world as they walk out of their workplaces and schools Friday to demand action on climate change.

The university’s Sustainability Cooperative — “SCoop” for short — is calling on students to skip their classes on that day to participate in the movement, billed as the “Global Climate Strike,” in solidarity with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Emily Fox, a member of SCoop, said she hopes the strike inspires more young people to continue protesting for change they want to see.

“It’s not just us, there’s going to be people around the world striking that day. D.C. is going to be filled with thousands and thousands of people. It will be an amazing historic moment,” Fox, a sophomore economics and philosophy major, said. “But we can’t just have one strike, we have to put continuing pressure on our leaders if we want to see change.”

Beyond this university, citizens in more than 100 countries — such as Brazil, Nigeria and Germany — will be participating. The strikes, mainly organized by students who plan to skip school, are protesting lawmakers and businesses’ inaction toward climate change and the consumption of fossil fuels.

And SCoop has a few demands of its own. The cooperative, a coalition of environmental activist organizations on campus, plans to send a letter to the administration about what could be changed on the campus to further reduce the university’s carbon footprint. 

Annabelle Arnold, one of SCoop’s three administrative chairs, said she’s happy with some of the steps the university has taken to cut down greenhouse emissions. This includes the recent Cool Food Pledge, an initiative with the goal of cutting down food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by purchasing more “plant-based” foods in the dining halls.  

“Although we’re making movements forward, we’re not moving fast enough,” Arnold, a senior environmental science and technology major, said.

[Read more: UMD’s dining halls commit to serving more “climate-friendly” food]

Their demands include introducing a sustainability education requirement for all incoming students and purchasing zero-emission vehicles in the future. 

SCoop is also asking the university to stop investing in fossil fuel industries. 

In 2016, the University System of Maryland Foundation, which oversees investments for the system — including this university — said it would stop directly investing in coal, oil and natural gas companies. 

However, the foundation — a private institution — has not given its progress on divestment to the public.

SCoop’s website for the event includes a sample email students can send to their professors to urge them to cancel class on Friday. The cooperative also calls on faculty members who can’t afford to cancel class to sign a “letter of support” — a pledge signaling their support for the global climate strike.

Max Skoglund, a senior environmental science and policy major and participant this university’s arm of the strike, said he saw an article from the Sierra Club that highlighted the nation’s “greenest universities.” The University of Maryland didn’t make that list — but Skoglund said he hopes it could someday. 

“I want the university to declare climate change an emergency, recognize the urgency of it, and start to work on it,” said Skoglund. “I want UMD to be up there. I want them to be top 10.”

Members will meet up outside of McKeldin Library at 9:30 a.m., then take the Metro down to Washington, D.C., and join hands with fellow protesters. 

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