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Duke climate rally calls for engagement amid climate change

Duke students added their voices to those participating in the global climate strike last week. 

As part of the week-long global strike inspired by 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, the Duke Climate Coalition and the Undergraduate Environmental Union collaborated to host the Duke Climate Rally at the Bryan Center plaza Sept. 21. The event followed a youth global climate strike Sept. 20. 

“We really want [students] to feel like there is something that they can do and that they can feel empowered and hopeful,” said senior Margaret Overton, who serves as UEU president.

Overton explained that the main focus of the rally was to promote engagement in climate change issues among the student population. 

With Locopops and colorful signs in hand that read “I’m with her [mother earth]” and “Why should we study if there is no future?”, dozens of students and visitors gathered under the glaring sun to demonstrate their support for action against climate change.

Although the rally itself lasted two hours, the event’s organizers focused on long-term impact through legislative petitioning and voter registration. Leading up to the rally, DCC and UEU hosted a sign-making event and drafted letters for students to send to various politicians and Duke administrators including President Vincent Price, Gov. Roy Cooper and Senator Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Sophomore Dana Adcock, who studies environmental science and policy, stressed the importance of such engagement.

“Especially with this administration and the lack of care put into climate change, defending the EPA and lack of accountability for corporations happening right now, it’s more important now than ever to show up for climate change,” Adcock said.

The rally featured a variety of voices and support for different causes and ideas. Durham’s Sunrise Movement pledged support for Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s, D-N.Y., proposed Green New Deal. 

Nathan Iyer, a master’s student at Duke, spoke on behalf of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, specifically outlining CCL’s support for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. The proposed legislation would place a price on above-average carbon usage and incentivize environmental responsibility, Iyer said.

Attendees and speakers joined together in singing and chanting. Lyrics like “when the people rise up, the powers come down” and “count me in” encouraged unity in the stand against climate change. 

William Barber III, co-chair of the NC Poor People’s Campaign environmental justice committee and strategic partnerships associate for the Climate Reality Project, opted to forego the stage and instead encouraged the crowd to gather in a circle to hear his message. Barber—son of Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign—focused on climate justice, emphasizing that climate change disproportionately affects people of underprivileged backgrounds.

Barber referenced devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, droughts in Syria and droughts and storms in Central America.

“The climate crisis is depriving people of their basic livelihoods and ways to provide for their families,” he said.

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