UMKC students strike for climate change

UMKC students united with members of the Sunrise Movement and other area schools in a rally to combat climate change.  

The strikers marched from the University Playhouse to Frank A. Theis Park last Friday, culminating in a series of impassioned speeches from local, student leaders.

“Today we are a part of a worldwide movement, a movement to strengthen our focus on climate change and take action,” declared UMKC Student Government Association (SGA) President Justice Horn, referring to similar climate strikes that also took place on Friday around the globe.

The speakers offered a varied list of demands, calling for changes towards a more sustainable agricultural industry and the acceptance of a green new deal. Rockhurst University Student Senator Anna Gilmore went on to demand specific action from local leaders, calling on Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas to declare a climate emergency.

Horn also singled out UMKC and the UM system, calling for the system to divest its endowment pool from the fossil fuel industry entirely, an estimated $13 million.

In response to this and other requests for similar action, the UM System Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing released a statement detailing its plans.

The statement applauded the community’s efforts saying, “We appreciate the passion and commitment demonstrated by our community to develop important strategies to preserve our environment.”

While the statement also mentioned the system’s current efforts to encourage sustainability, which includes investing millions of dollars to reduce greenhouse gases and updating old power sources, the UM system clearly indicated it has no plans to divest.

“With respect to our investment policies, we do not believe that alternatives to fossil fuels exist today at the scale demanded by our global economy. Furthermore, we do not feel that there is currently any persuasive or compelling argument that suggests divestment by the UM System will have any meaningful impact on the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

Even in light of the UM system’s firm stance against divestment, Horn believes the rally was a great display of student activism.

“Students are not just coming for college, students are now performing a civil service,” Horn stated. “They are holding elected officials’, myself included, feet to the fire.”

Horn also unveiled plans for the SGA to reinstate an environmental commission at UMKC, which will include members from various environmental clubs around campus.

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