As millions gathered in cities around the world for a global climate strike on Friday, Sept. 20, the Kenyon community made sure their voices did not go unheard. Over a hundred students, joined by some faculty and staff members, gathered outside Rosse Hall shortly before the end of afternoon classes to demonstrate their concern for the changing climate and call for action to preserve the environment.
Polling has found that a large majority of American teens and young people are moderately or greatly concerned about the earth’s future, with about 1 in 4 taking action to spur change, and Kenyon students are no different. In addition to displaying signs with slogans like “There is no planet B” and “Climate action now,” students shared tips on living more sustainably, and more than 15 student groups, ranging from the literary magazine HIKA to the Environmental Campus Organization (ECO), educated participants about climate issues and hosted climate-themed activities.
Gambier’s focus on climate continued on Monday and Tuesday of this week, as world leaders and activists like Swedish teen Greta Thunburg gathered at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. With organizational help from the Office of Green Initiatives, about two dozen faculty took part in a “climate teach-in” along Middle Path. By moving their courses out of the classroom and into public spaces, students and faculty aimed to attract the attention of bystanders as they discussed how different academic disciplines can approach climate change.
“The goals of the teach-in were to think with the climate crisis as it unfolds, from our individual disciplinary perspectives, and to do so in a public and visible way, so that we can carry forward community-wide conversation and action that responds effectively and with hope,” said Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Joy Brennan, who coordinated the teach-in alongside Director of Green Initiatives Dave Heithaus ’99. Courses taking part in the climate teach-in included:
Students in Associate Professor of Chemistry Yutan Getzler’s “Organic Chemistry Lab II” class examined different Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), greenhouse gas concentration trajectories that are used to model different climate futures and show how adjustments in emissions might influence the rate of climate change. Getzler’s students were then tasked with writing a six-word short story inspired by a particular year and RCP — ”the strangest assignment” one senior reported ever receiving. Some of their creations:
“More water, but no more fish.” — Phu Duong ’21 and Kai Wilczewski-Shirai ’21
“Crowded and underwater, we barely tried.” — Aidan Clarkson ’22 and Carter Powell ’20
“West Antarctica: Now Accepting Climate Refugees.” — Emma Becker ’22, Afomia Ayele ’21 and Kirollos Mikhaeel ’22
“[Climate change] is not an unsolvable problem,” Getzler said. “It is a hard problem. And I think it’s important to engage with that aspect of it.”
In addition to the climate teach-in, several related events took place on Tuesday: