A sustainable future

Allegheny College participates in Climate Strike


Rhiannon King, ’20, Mary Allen, ’22, and Marisol Santa Cruz, ’20, make hand prints on a banner during the Climate Strike on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, outside the Henderson Campus Center.

On Friday, Sept. 20, members of the Allegheny community participated in the Global Climate Strike.

Students, faculty and community members from the Meadville area came together and protested in an effort to raise awareness about the climate crisis, understand the need for action and how individuals can address the matter in their every day lives.

On the Gator Quad and throughout campus, some organizations called out for policy change, while others held signs and informed people on what they can do to help in their daily lives to slow the crisis.

The Green Students of Color Society and a number of other organizations participated in the Climate Strike activities.

Shaellen Franco, ’21, who is a co-founder of Greensocs, played an instrumental role in getting people outside of just the environmental science program at Allegheny interested and willing to participate in the strike.

“It was a really big thing for us to make sure that everyone was accounted for and people that wanted to speak there, could,” Franco said. “I think we were trying to get people’s attention more so than participating in an angry strike—it was definitely about trying to get people involved,” Franco said.

Various other clubs, environmentally-focused and not, participated in the strike as well as Students for Environmental Action is a club at Allegheny that advocates for the betterment of the environment on our campus, as well as all over the world.

The concept for its table at the Climate Strike was to have people sign commitment cards in the hopes to get more young people to vote.

By signing the card, community members  made a pledge to take action and register to vote in the next  presidential election.

President of SEA Kylie Wirebach, ’20, acknowledged that taking action can mean different things to different people.

“We take ‘action’ to be a term that covers a lot of different bases in terms of what you as an individual can do that spans the coverage of personal sustainability goals,” Wirebach said.

The club has experience when it comes to organizing and participating in strikes. Members of SEA have managed to travel to the U.S.-Mexican border for a protest, and protested the Dakota Access Pipeline.

They have also done several demonstrations on campus in the past few years, including a pyramid of  Mckinley’s single-use to-go boxes.

“We have made huge pyramids made of used clamshell boxes from Mckinley’s that we pulled out of the trash,” Wirebach said. “We recorded them for months and we stacked them into a giant pyramid and showed people exactly how much trash we throw away in terms of just those clamshell boxes.”

By lining up the boxes next to each other, the number that are thrown away each year at Allegheny can stretch from the campus center to Erie and back, according to Wirebach.

“Now we have the green boxes, which are great,” said SEA Vice President Sam Williams, ’20. This box system is new to McKinley’s and is supposed to be a “saving grace” for the clamshell box problem.

SEA is not just focused on protests, demonstrations and strikes — they attempt to implement a variety of activities that members can use to be impactful in smaller scale ways.

The club does late night events where students can make their own soap, or create seed bombs that can be thrown into a garden and grow native wildflowers.

Certain events like a Trashion Show, where students make clothing out of trash donated from businesses around the Meadville Area, have become somewhat of a tradition.

Another SEA tradition is the French Creek Watershed Cleanup.

“We take a team representing Allegheny College, and more specifically SEA, (and) it’s a bonding experience,” Wirebach said. “It’s our way to be like ‘you are here now and this is how you can help out,’ especially for people that are new to Allegheny.”

The Climate Strike brought together many groups of people, some of whom were Meadville community members — three generations of women from the Meadville community joined in with the masses and held signs advocating for a better environment.

Sandy Boyd and Audean Bleutge of Meadville, along with Jill Meyers (visiting from Georgia) participated in the Climate Strike because they wanted to stress that the youth “can’t be defeated.”

“I think it is so easy to turn on social media and be like, ‘Oh my God we are losing the war, like we are losing this fight, how are we ever going to overcome this?” Meyers said. “The dirty little secret is that if you show up, you can’t be beat.”

Meyers works at a research company in Georgia and said she believes that the power is in the modern youth. In her eyes, nobody can outvote this new generation of voters.

“(The youth) are the future (and they) give me so much inspiration,” Meyers said.

One group on campus that displayed their strength in numbers at the Climate Strike was a group for the Green New Deal Coalition of Meadville.

Autumn Blaisdell, ’21, is a supporter for the Green New Deal Coalition. Their booth setup was centered around a banner lying on the ground with a black tree painted on it.

The poster had several plates of paint on either side, so that people could come up and dip their hand in paint, then place it on the tree to give it color and life as if the hand prints were leaves of the tree.

“We are having people put their hands down in protest for solidarity of the Green New Deal,” Blaisdell said.  “We wanted to show solidarity for the movement in a fun and engaging and eye popping way.”

The poster garnered over 100 handprints and was made entirely out of recycled paper. The hope is for it to be hanging in the campus center lobby soon.

“(The poster) is a sense of our future on the page, it is our kids’ future and future generations to come,” Blaisdell said.

The Climate Strike had many different meanings to many different people.

Taylor Hoose, ’20, a member of SEA, shared her thoughts about the strike and what reasoning she had to be protesting as an Allegheny student.

“I am out here today because to me climate change really just magnifies all the inequalities in the world, so I strive to make that less of a system right now,” Hoose said.

Hoose went on to say that she participated in the Climate Strike for the people who couldn’t protest or take a stand.

“Around the world, there are even more suppressive governments than our own unfortunately, so there are people who can’t come out, because they aren’t allowed,” Hoose said. “But also the individuals who just have a lot going on in their lives, the people who have to take their kids to school and have to go to work in order to support themselves and their family. So I have to stand for the people who can’t.”