UCSD Students Organize Climate Strike on Earth Day in Support of the Green New Deal

Written in collaboration with Tanaya Sawant.

A climate change rally took place in front of the Silent Tree outside Geisel Library on Earth Day, April 22, to gain support from Associated Students and the UC Administration for the Green New Deal. UC San Diego faculty members and different representatives from student organizations and outside organizations attended the rally to speak on issues centered on climate change, such as environmentalism in the historical perspective, social equity, and immigration.

The rally demonstrating the social, political, and economic effects of climate change was organized by Eleanor Roosevelt College sophomore Gio Tamacas, who developed the event independent of any student organization. The rally included speeches from Tamacas, representatives from the Student Sustainability Collective, and professors at UCSD and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Several organizations outside of UCSD were also present, including the San Diego Sunrise Movement, the San Diego Raven Corps, and several immigration activists from Border Angels.

Tamacas stated that the goal of the Climate Strike was to “urge Associated Students and the UC administration to pass a resolution in support of a Green New Deal.”

In the description for the Facebook event, Tamacas wrote “In order to save human civilization, we need a mass movement that vehemently opposes Big Oil and its special interest. This strike demands our elected officials support the Green New Deal to transform our country to 100 percent renewable energy, in 10 years, based on the fundamentals of social, economic, and environmental justice.”

“The 2018 report also warns that the impending climate disaster would cause: mass extinction, mass migration, genocide, drought, famine, floods, killer-heatwaves, uninhabitable regions of the world, the spread of infectious diseases, and war,” Tamacas wrote.

Another speaker at the rally was Student Sustainability Collective Energy and Waste Director Bryant Jew who spoke about equity in the environmental movement. Jew decided to speak at the rally after Tamacas presented the idea of the Climate Rally at an SSC meeting.

“I say sadly since the environmental movement has a bit of a dark history as a movement run by and for white people,” Jew told the UCSD Guardian. “In these movements, people of color and other marginalized groups have few [opportunities] to benefit from the efforts of the environmental movement, and in some cases, the environmental movement has further disenfranchised minority groups. Even the father of the environmental movement and the namesake of a UCSD College, John Muir has a history of racism.”

The rally also had student speaker and ERC sophomore Karandeep Singh, who advocated for prospective Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders by showcasing his take on Climate Change.

“Sanders recognizes climate change as the greatest security threat facing the country and the world,” Singh said. “Bernie is clear-eyed, and he knows that climate change has the potential of displacing 200 million people by 2050.”

An unnamed anti-protestor who wore a gas mask and held a communist flag showed up to express his disdain for the Climate Strike. He spoke out about how he believes that people have become too insensitive to criticism, a clear reference to the poster that he was presenting which was titled: “The Green New Deal is Reactionary and Senseless.”

“People have shrunk away from criticism,” the anti-protester said. “They’re stuck in their own ideas, and when someone criticizes them, they get mad … they don’t accept criticism and think about it and try to improve their stance. A lot of the time, maybe the motivation is very revolutionary … but the way it comes out, it’s really reactionary and unrelatable to the average population.”

While the identity of the anti-protester remains unknown, this is not the first time he showed up to counter student demonstrations. On April 20, 2018, the same anti-protester showed up in the same outfit to counterprotest the UCSD Walkout/March Against Gun Violence.

“I believe in freedom of speech,” Tamacas said. “I believe in the free exchange of ideas and people can criticize others’ beliefs as much as they want, and that’s what democracy looks like.”

Tamacas announced that he will be starting a fossil fuel divestment campaign at the UC level and a petition to demand the UC administration to divest from fossil fuels.

“I would also like to point out a clear hypocrisy by the UC system,” Tamacas said. “The UC System is investing millions and billions of dollars in fossil fuels, natural gas, and oil, while at the same time, touting that they’re world leaders in sustainability and want to transform the UC system towards renewable energy by 2025. I demand personally [that Chancellor Pradeep Khosla] demand an imminent vote and set a concrete date, or at least push for a concrete vote, for divestment.”

This latest UCSD Climate Strike is a part of a series of global climate change demonstrations. On May 24, over a thousand cities worldwide will strike in the youth-led Global Climate Strike for Future. Tamacas can be reached at [email protected].

Photo courtesy of UC San Diego.