Students Chain Themselves to a Tree to Demonstrate Urgency of Climate Change

Several students chained themselves to a tree in front of the UC San Diego Bookstore on Library Walk on May 24 in a performative demonstration to call attention to the urgency of climate change. While the purpose of the demonstration was to recruit more members to participate in future UCSD-based Extinction Rebellion demonstrations, most students walking by stopped to take pictures of the demonstration rather than joining in.

The event, labeled simply as “Tree” on Facebook, included several other students holding up signs and blocking the pathway as well as one student dressed up in a dinosaur costume.

May 24th also marked the date of the Youth Climate Strike, in which students around the world skipped class to pressure policymakers to address climate change. The origin of the Youth Climate Movement is often credited to Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish student who skipped class last year to protest in front of the Riksdag, the Swedish Parliament.

The UCSD demonstration was organized by Gio Tamacas, who also organized the Earth Day Climate Strike in front of Geisel Library.

“The purpose of the demonstration was to recruit to Extinction Rebellion and the Climate Movement, cause disruption, wake people up to impending climate catastrophe, and bring a rainbow coalition of people together around the demand for drastic climate action from the U.S. Government and the University.” Tamacas told the UCSD Guardian.

The UCSD group aligned themselves with the goals of Extinction Rebellion, an international organization that is most prominent in the United Kingdom. On its site, Extinction Rebellion labels itself as “an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience to achieve radical change in order to minimise the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse.”

Extinction Rebellion was officially founded in October 2018 after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the newest report about what would happen if the planet were to reach 1.5 degrees of warming.

According to the IPCC Summary for Policymakers, a warming of 1.5 C could lead to increases in temperature extremes, higher drought risks, sea level rise and ocean acidification, as well as increased impacts on biodiversity and human-related risks. The report states, “Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5 C and increase further with 2 C.”

At the UCSD demonstration last Friday, three students tied themselves to a tree in front of the Bookstore during the whole duration of the demonstration, which lasted between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.

Eleanor Roosevelt College philosophy student Greyson Sims was one of the students chained to the tree. “This is the first among the couple of protests that we want to do to recruit and also to have a presence on campus,” Sims told the Guardian.

One of the group’s goals is to work with the UC Regents to create campus-wide solutions to climate change.

Thurgood Marshall College sophomore Andres Gante, who was also chained to the tree, stressed the importance of making the planet a priority.

“We just want everyone to know that [the Earth] is a first priority,” Gante told the Guardian. “The Earth is the first home we have. It’s what we live on. It’s something that can’t really be ignored for too long. Although we all have a uniform message of ‘yes, we want the Earth to be better,’ you need to do something if you want it to be better.”

Professor Adam Aron, a professor of psychology at UCSD, joined the students in the demonstration as he wore a T-shirt with the Extinction Rebellion logo.

“I’m wearing the T-shirt, but I don’t know what it is to be part of it,” Aron told the Guardian. “[Extinction Rebellion is] an extremely non-hierarchical organization. Anyone can be part of Extinction Rebellion if they care about this issue. I’m supporting the students because I think this is really important, and I want them to know that some professors are with them on this.”

The purpose of the one-hour demonstration was to recruit other UCSD students to form an Extinction Rebellion collective in San Diego. Although most students passed by or took pictures, several people stopped to ask questions.

“Turnout was anywhere from 10 to 20 [people], which is a good start. But UCSD’s students need to wake up,” Tamacas said. “We are a climate science pioneering school. And this is a dire situation. If we don’t wake up now, we are all [f—–].”

While some students were chained to a tree, Tamacas, who was dressed in a dinosaur costume, laid out on Library Walk next to a pool of fake blood and growled at students passing by.

“The dinosaur lying dead next to a pool of blood symbolizes our similar fate if we continue our catastrophic trajectory,” Tamacas said. “Business as usual equals human extinction. The dinosaurs didn’t know what was coming. We knew climate disaster was coming — mass starvation, mass migration, and the sixth mass extinction. We have no excuse if we perish.”

In June, the University of California Academic Senate will meet and vote on the UC Board of Regents divestment from fossil fuels. If passed, the resolution will be taken to the UC Regents.

Photo courtesy of WBUR.

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