By Arts & Entertainment Editor Sawyer Pollitt
Chants of “What do we want? Commitment! When do we want it? Now!” echoed throughout the main campus quad on Friday, September 27th, over twenty members of the UMass Dartmouth Hub of the Sunrise Movement, who had organized a climate walkout the previous week, gathered again to demand commitment from UMass Dartmouth’s administration.
This commitment, says Hub Organizer Nathaniel Roberts (Political Science, 2020) comes in the form of meeting with student organizers by October 4th to discuss the steps needed to be taken so that UMass Dartmouth will be running on completely renewable energy by 2050.
After the protest, the Torch sat down with Roberts to further discuss the goals of this movement. Two of the main targets of the UMass Dartmouth Hub, as stated in the group’s manifesto “Our Demands” are a commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2050, and to “Charter a committee/task-force with a diverse group of students, faculty, and administrators to steer environmental decisions”.
The importance of this committee was expounded upon by Roberts “About a year ago I authored a report on UMass Dartmouth Climate Adaptation…My research found that a lack of interdepartmental communication was a huge factor in the lack of bold climate action. A sustainability committee “exists,” but it never meets, or if it does, it doesn’t meet nearly enough to effectively do anything.”
The lack of action on part of the UMass Dartmouth exists in stark contrast to UMass Amherst where a commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2030 has already been set, and it being adhered to. Roberts states that this is due to “1. We are not given the same resources Amherst is given; 2. Amherst has a large student activist culture; 3. We do not have a Director of Sustainability or any real governing entity to direct us towards sustainability”.
By meeting with the Chancellor and other key officials of the administration, Roberts and other members of the Sunrise Movement hope to move UMass Dartmouth further along the track to a sustainable future. “Chancellor Johnson has said that it is “our time,” that we will be the generation to solve global warming.” Says Roberts, “It is our time. We are here, trying to solve it. By the time we are in leadership positions, such as his, we will no longer have the opportunity.”
Also, according to Roberts, investing in a sustainable future can also help the university financially “Bold climate action is not only necessary, it is an opportunity for the institution. Every new generation of college student will be looking for environmentally responsible institutions, which we could be. It is an opportunity to signal to donor and alumni networks that we are leading other public institutions in climate action.”
As impassioned as the students who are involved with the Sunrise Movement are, there are those on campus who do not share the same drive for change. Instead, they question the feasibility of committing to this level of action. Calling a commitment to 100% renewable energy by 2050 “unrealistic”.
There are also those who question the tactics being used by the Sunrise Movement. The protest on the 27th, intended to keep pressure on the Chancellor and administration, occurred while Chancellor Robert Johnson was off campus, unable to hear or see the protesters outside of the Foster administration building. For some, this made it seem as though Roberts and the other organizers were screaming into the void.
In response to this Roberts says “I implore them to imagine themselves in a historical context… We will not get anywhere if we do not demand action. If we do not stand up for what we believe in, we have failed our generation and the next…Climate change is the largest existential threat to the way we live. It is an issue that intersects race, labor, gender, healthcare, and every other issue.”
This movement here at UMass Dartmouth is not an isolated group, the Sunrise Movement as a whole is based on the weekly protests of Greta Thunberg which have spread to activist groups around the world “We, the students of UMass Dartmouth, are joining her and our generation. We no longer have time to wait” says Roberts.
When asked if the weekly protests would continue if the goals of the Sunrise Movement were not met Roberts responded “Yes. Change does not happen overnight. We must shift the administration’s focus from short-term to long-term. If we give up now, then what was the point?”
For now, the student body will have to wait and see if campus administration takes action on climate change and a sustainable future. Until then, for those who are interested, the Sunrise Movement meets on Tuesdays at 6:00PM in Woodland Commons. Their manifesto can also be viewed at bit.ly/OurDemands.