“I believe that we have a responsibility as the younger generation to do something to impact climate change, because it’s getting out of hand and, as students, we can organize and get together,” said Campbell.
The protesters addressed a variety of different environmental issues, such as the melting of the polar ice caps and how climate change affects a certain population’s living conditions. Although the climate strikes aim to influence policy to enact change, the protests have primarily functioned to create awareness surrounding the issues related to climate change.
“Overall, they are great for raising awareness, but it is still difficult to really cause and create actual change in businesses and governments,” said senior Roshan Vemuri, leader of the Environmental Campus Organization. “The people can protest all they want, but if there is not a valid legal push or economic push, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect change to happen.”
Others question Thunberg’s effectiveness, skeptical of her fame and arguing that awareness about climate change has already been spread; they instead call for concrete ideas and actions.
“A lot of people are posting on social media, but I don’t really see that doing anything because people already have awareness,” said Nik Vijay, a sophomore. “What she is doing is great, but if she can actually provide more concrete ideas to help, it would be more effective.”
Upper School history teacher John Monahan compares Thunberg’s speech to powerful historical events such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He believes that the emerging consequences of climate change have created anxiety in people, describing the way people view Thunberg as an “isolated prophet voice” and realizing how difficult and urgent addressing the issue is.
“If none of us are responsible for anything more than an infinitesimally small fraction of damage to climate or natural resources, then we are not going to necessarily be in a rush to take private action on the scale or pace necessary to address the collective impact of everyone wanting the dream of a house, two cars, kids, vacations on airplanes, and so on,” said Monathan. “But again, if no one takes responsibility for it, the problem gets larger, more complicated to solve, and the larger the problem gets, the bigger the gap between what we feel we are individually responsible for and what the need is.”
Vemuri, Vijay, and Monahan agree that environmentally friendly solutions that are also cost-compelling are essential to effectively addressing the issue of climate change.
“There are constantly decisions being made for governments and businesses to increase profits and increase customer base,” said Vemuri. “The increasing awareness of climate change have led these governments and businesses to make decisions that benefit both them politically and economically but also environmentally friendly. One of the things that we have been focusing on is approaching the community with solutions that increase the profit but are also more environmental.”
The idea also applies to people who may not believe in climate change.
“There are people that dispute the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real, but some of those people are still choosing more energy renewable sources when they become cost compelling to choose,” said Monahan.
Vemuri wishes for the ECO club and Westminster to take more initiative and offer more environmentally friendly options.
“I think it’s simple things like changing over to paper cups as opposed to plastic in the lunchroom,” said Vemuri. He hopes that Westminster will place a greater focus on recycling and assign homework electronically to save paper.
Westminster has been taking more environmentally friendly steps with the new construction taking place around campus.
“I know that our own energy sources with all the construction are going to be a lot more efficient than before,” said Monahan.
One example he gives is the rain water collecting tanks that have been installed, which have changed rainy days from being a problem to something positive. Although the rain water tanks may have been for cost efficiency and not for environmental issues, Monahan emphasizes that “they are still good decisions for the future of Westminster.”