Opinion: UI leaders must react to calls of climate strikers

Our institutional leaders have the obligation to unite with the younger generations of students who are speaking out.


Reba Zatz

A crowd of hundreds gathers on the Pentacrest lawn to raise awareness about climate change. The Iowa City Climate Strike march was one of hundreds taking place around the world on Friday, Sept. 20.

Becca Bright, Columnist

Millions attended the first climate-strike protests across the world, including here in Iowa City, on Sept. 20 to demand social and economic change from political leaders to fight climate change.

Iowa City protesters specifically called for local institutions to use 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2030 and to cease coal burning by the University of Iowa power plant. As data on the effects of climate change gain dangerous momentum, so too does the movement of this generation of activists — many of whom are currently students.

As a student, I believe the UI has a responsibility to its student body to respond to the climate crisis, and I see their inaction as negligence. No UI administrator has given any public statement regarding climate-strike protests, nor a response to student protests against climate change concerning what the UI will do to be more environmentally active.

One would expect schools to publicly support student protests against an issue that threatens all people. However, the reality behind the silence of these institutions holds as much volume as the student outcry. Students have skipped classes in order to be a part of the marches, reflecting the urgency that there cannot be a future for education if there is not a future of a sustainable planet.

In a video for Conservation International, climate strike leader Greta Thunberg said, “Children like me are giving up their education to protest.”

Students are organizing themselves with the effort of understanding facts secured by scientific data that humanity’s role in climate change is one of undeniable influence. That influence is being recognized as one of a moral obligation by much of this generation, so it should also be recognized by educational institutions and responded to.

To be fair, the UI hasn’t done nothing. Some tangible efforts have bee made to make our campus more sustainable. But the UI has set many of its sustainability targets on the timescale of decades. We need action now.

It is the responsibility of our political, economic, and social leaders to make both public and private spheres not only aware of the urgency of climate change, but to recognize such an undertaking is vital.

Public silence in response to protest is a denial of action, and therefore useless. The UI clearly has vast resources to educate and instruct students on all fields of knowledge. Why be silent on an issue that threatens all students to a level of such magnitude — the current and future conditions of life on this planet?

To remain silent on what students are protesting is outrageous. The voice of the UI administration should be a resource of security and support for the student body. To ensure a healthy planet should not be a subject on which the UI is hesitant to give a statement.

Clearly, students can begin to build on our own activism towards the necessary goals of fighting climate change. But our voices cannot do enough if we are ignored by those in power. The obligation of our institutional leaders is for their response to be louder than our protests.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.