Students Lead the Climate Strike, and the World Follows September 27, 2019

By Samuel Maves

Climate rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo credit: Samuel Maves)

The excitement was palpable. I, alongside fellow University of Michigan students, high schoolers, and community members, took part in the global climate strike movement on September 20, holding our own Washtenaw County Climate Strike right here in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The experience was truly uplifting. We had around 7,500 people show up from across the community to strike and rally on campus for climate action now!

So, how is PSR involved?

This past summer, I had the amazing experience of interning in PSR’s Environment and Health (E&H) program in Washington, D.C. I learned an enormous amount about the critical issues of climate change health impacts and how best to talk about these pressing issues. Climate change is indeed a health emergency and needs to be stressed as such! While in D.C., I was also given the opportunity to get directly involved in both PSR’s federal climate advocacy work and their chapter efforts promoting clean energy at the state and local level.

Now, after spending my summer with PSR, I’ve returned to student climate activism at the University of Michigan with a fresh new set of tools for affecting change. I credit the wonderful E&H team for developing my more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the connections between the climate crisis and human health.

While I was off in Ann Arbor doing my part for the global strike, it was both reassuring and refreshing to see PSR take part in strikes across the country. After last Friday’s strike, I checked the PSR website to see what they had published about the day’s events and saw, to my pleasure, that all web content was blocked for the day—the website itself had joined in with the global climate strike! Although I was already well aware of how dedicated PSR is to the fight against climate change, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see an organization run by adults stand in substantive solidarity with this youth movement.

Being back at the University of Michigan—which has over $1 billion invested in the fossil fuel industry—has left me feeling somewhat jaded about the complicity and complacency of people in power. Our Board of Regents recently approved an expansion of the University’s natural gas power plant, in effect committing the next several decades to harmful fossil fuels.

While the fight against these injustices will be difficult, incorporating the lessons I’ve learned at PSR will be pivotal. When our University president makes claims about how investing in a fossil fuel is essential so as to reliably power critical infrastructure such as the University hospital, we now have another answer for him: clean, safe renewable energy and energy efficiency are the only measures that can get the job done, all while keeping people out of hospitals by reducing the myriad climate health impacts caused by fossil fuel energy sources. The irony.

Thank you, PSR, for leading the path forward!

Samuel Maves is a student at University of Michigan and a PSR Climate Ambassador as well as a former environment and health intern at PSR.

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