UT students rally for a better tomorrow

Students from the University of Tennessee, led by student leaders of Sunshine and S.P.E.A.K, rally and march in order to get the mayor to declare a climate emergency in Knoxville.

Students gathered outside of the Humanities and Social Sciences building on campus on Nov. 22 to ensure their voices were heard about climate change.

Led by students in the S.P.E.A.K and Sunrise organizations, students braved the weather and marched across campus to the Knoxville City Council planning to peacefully protest outside of city hall.

Logan Hysen, a senior majoring in environmental soil studies, said his goal for the rally was to inspire the mayor to declare a climate emergency to bring awareness to the issue.

“[We want to] ask Madeline Rogero, the mayor, to declare a climate emergency. And if she doesn’t do so, [we want] to encourage her successor, Indya Kincannon to declare a climate emergency instead,” Hysen said.

Knoxville is already an environmentally conscious city. Back in 2008, they made a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. By 2012, emissions had already reduced 13%. Now that 2020 is coming to a close, they have set new goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and reduce them by 80% by 2050.

The outlook for Knoxville’s combat on climate change will continue to grow with new mayor Indya Kincannon.

“I will play an active role leading the Mayor’s Climate Council working to share the urgency of these issues and solicit ideas for how we can halve our carbon emissions as a community by 2030,” said Kincannon.

Knoxville was also one of 16 communities across the United States to be named a Climate Change Champion by President Obama in 2014.

However, in order to move forward with the fight against climate change students feel there is still a lot to be done.

“Sunrise and the Youth Climate Coalition [have] a couple of different demands, some of which include, we want to see a Green New Deal for the country, we want to see indigenous peoples and their lands protected, biodiversity restored, 50% of the world’s lands be protected,” says Hysen.

Sunrise has been closely working to accomplish all of these things, especially the Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal lays out a plan to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and convert to 100% clean and renewable energy by the year 2030. However, since its appearance, this fourteen-page document has spurred ongoing controversy in Washington.

“It will kill millions of jobs, it will crush the dreams of the poorest Americans and disproportionately harm minority communities,” said President Trump.

The Green New Deal is essentially divided into two parts, how to fix the climate crisis and how to help the people it will affect. However, politicians have claimed that this is only the first step in combating climate change.

Therefore the fight against climate change is still alive and dominated by the youth of America.

“As young people, we have to utilize our voices,” Isabella Killius, a sophomore majoring in environmental studies, said.

Determined to leave their mark on climate change, students at UT are determined to fight for their future.

“I think climate change is kind of a blanket issue- it affects immigration, it affects healthcare. Even if people don’t really think it should be or is at the forefront of our policy agenda, even if people don’t think it exists, I think if you’re out there, if your feeling hopeless about this movement, Sunrise and other [organizations] are here to support you,” Killius said.

Edited by Maddie Torres and Libby Dayhuff

Featured image courtesy of Gracie Strange