Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 27, 2019

Climate Change2

Arpan Paul speaks about the impact of climate change on India. 

Photo provided by Virginia Rendler

MU Students Organize Climate Strike

Chloe Leckrone


MU students joined hundreds of thousands of activists around the world on Friday, September 20, as they rallied on the steps of Funderburg Library to raise awareness of the effects of climate change and to call for action on Manchester’s campus.

The strike began at 11 a.m. Students, faculty, staff and community members alike congregated outside of Funderburg Library to call attention to the negative impacts of climate change. Speakers included Jesse Langdon, Fatu Kaba, Arpan Paul, Karly Eichenauer, Jade Gourley, Caraline Feairheller, and Chris Francois. They spoke on such issues as the climate justice movement, fossil fuel divestment, and what the Manchester University community can do to reduce its carbon footprint. Jade Gourley, a first-year chemistry major, informed the crowd about the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Accord, an accord which would commit Manchester University to work toward 17 goals—many of which involve climate action—at all institutional levels.

While President Dave McFadden did not sign the accord as organizers had hoped, speakers 
encouraged individuals and department chairs to sign themselves. “By signing this accord, I know we can build a better future,” Gourley said. “This will place Manchester University on the right side of history.”

Karly Eichenauer, a junior biology-chemistry major, focused on the importance of people from all different areas of study coming together to combat climate change. “It’s going to take all of us, from sociologists to chemists to psychologists and people with communication skills and people in the business industries, to be able to push for reform and for action,” she said.

Eichenauer also believes that the climate strike is, as she said another way to “stand up for Manchester’s beliefs of respecting the infinite worth of all individuals and improving the human condition to be able to help the environment so we can all live healthy lives.” Much progress has been made on Manchester’s campus as far as sustainability goes, from the water-refill stations to the environmental responsibility graduation pledge to the recently updated recycling program. Much has been done at the departmental level, but Chris Francois, senior peace studies major, believes the university can do more. “As an institution we have not had a central, focused view on climate action,” they said.

The goal of Friday’s climate strike was to get the institution to commit to the UN SDGs. “Because of our connection to the UN, I believe it is our moral obligation to fight against climate change and take a stand,” Francois said. Francois was an organizer for the student-lead initiative and was compelled to bring the strike to campus because of their upbringing in Haiti. “Haiti is in the Caribbean, and it’s one of the countries most likely to be affected by climate change,” Francois said. Being from a country that has been, and continues to be, devastated by climate change, Francois wants to take action while in the United States. Over the summer while Francois was in New York completing an internship, they developed many professional networks outside of their internship, including connections with people involved with the Sunrise Movement.

Sunrise is a social movement, mainly consisting of young people, dedicated to fighting against climate change. Those connections Francois made inspired them to start a Sunrise chapter at Manchester. This chapter is important to Francois because of the institution’s legacy as the first college with an undergraduate peace studies program.  “I feel like there’s always a lot of misconceptions that happen when you’re in a rural environment, and Manchester is in a rural environment,” Francois said. “When we talk about climate denial, it might be unfairly associated with rural places.” Francois hopes that the Sunrise chapter will not only bring awareness to Manchester’s legacy of activism, but also raise awareness of climate justice.

The decision from those at the administrative level to not sign on to the SDG Accord will not slow down climate activists at Manchester. “This movement and its participants will continue to live differently and consciously think about their actions and its impact on the world whether the institution wants to maintain its legacy of leadership or not,” said Peace Studies Coordinator Caraline Feairheller. “We will continue to move forward with their support or not, because it is our generation working for our future.”