The sun began to disappear, and students stood like penguins as they shuffled back and forth. The temperature hovered at a chilling 32 degrees.
The words of Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything” bit through the cold air, and students took turns reading the book aloud in a filibuster fashion on Dec. 3 in the Richer Commons.
“Our main goal was just to raise awareness that the COP [the Conference of Parties] is happening in Paris,” said Jeri Gravlin, senior and student involved with COP21 awareness activism on campus. “We felt like a lot of students didn’t know [the COP] was happening—and it really is going to make or break our future.”
Students organized the movement that took place on Dec. 3 to bring awareness to the 21st annual Conference of Parties [COP21], held in Paris, France this year until Dec. 11. Over 40,000 delegates from 195 countries gathered in Paris to address and confront climate change.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming of more than 2 celsius would result in chaotic consequences, with an increase in the number of extreme climate events.
A little closer to home, students raised awareness of the conference on Westminster’s campus, splashing the campus with posters, chalk, window paint and a sheet hanging from the back side of Converse Hall. The activists also took to social media and organized a reading and vigil.
Gravlin was one of the students behind the movement on campus and one of the devoted few who stood outside, shaking in the cold. She said that the organizing was in hopes of raising awareness and pushing students to ask questions.
“We just wanted students to be aware and kind of Google it or find research online on their own and just be aware that it’s happening,” Gravlin said. “We didn’t want to give people, ‘Is it good is it bad?’ We just wanted people to know about it and ask questions and get informed.”
Juan-David Rouillard, senior environmental science major, said that when he first started to become aware and involved he felt overwhelmed.
“That’s like where I started out three years ago,” Rouillard said. “I was way overwhelmed, I was like, ‘What the hell is going on? Wait, all these people seem to know about all of these horrible injustices going on in the world. How did they become so informed?’”
Alongside Gravlin, Rouillard has been a key member behind the movement. He provided insight into how students who felt overwhelmed like he had could take steps to become involved.
“It all starts just asking questions,” Rouillard said. “A way to immediately take action without even asking questions is to write our legislators and tell them that you don’t agree with them or that you won’t vote for them…and that’s like the most immediate way that you could, or anyone could, get involved.”
Another student involved in leading the movement was Mariah McCoy, sophomore custom major of environmental justice and policy, whose personal ties to the issues led her to become involved.
“I live in a place where there are lots of national parks and lots of wild,” said McCoy, who is an Alaska native. “I’ve always been sort of an environmentalist at heart because I want to see that preserved. When I started getting into this and started coming to [Westminster] I realized that more the preservation of wild places we need to to preserve ideologies, thinking, methods, how we act, how we speak, what we fear.”
McCoy said that she wanted to express that the summit in Paris wasn’t just one group of voices. She urged the importance of listening to all groups.
“This is not one voice,” she said. “This is a lot of different opinions around here, and if you look at COP21, it’s a great example of that because we got huge organizations and huge governments coming together. They have their opinions, but so do the small people and so do the indigenous groups, so do the global South, and those groups are in there and they’re talking, too. And unless we listen to all sides… we’re not going get a good decision made at this conference.”
COP21 in Paris will address the reduction of greenhouse gases and emissions as well as the larger topic of financial means.
In Copenhagen during 2009 and in Cancún during 2010, the developed countries had together committed raising $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries cope and confront climate change.
Students with thoughts on the movement, COP21 or climate change can tweet The Forum @WcForumMedia or write a letter to the editor.