Climate strike precipitates social media posts, fails to create change

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Graphic by Maggie More / The Flat Hat

I love our planet. Everyone say it with me: “I love planet Earth.” Climate change is bad. Repeat again, please and thank you. Okay, now that the chanting is out of the way, I can get down to business. Real activism does not exist in 2019. It has been long dead — gone are the days of the Salt March, the March on Washington and Tiananmen Square. No longer are people gathering to make change — rather demonstrations are now the go-to excuse for the privileged elite to chastise … other privileged elites?

Oh, come on. Let’s call the Climate Strike last Friday, co-hosted by the Sunrise Movement and the Young Democrats, what it was — shouting at the moon and pretending like you’re making a difference just so you can feel better. How ridiculously dishonest.

The purported reasoning for the climate strike was to send a message to “corrupt fossil fuel billionaires,” and politicians along with demanding a “Green New Deal.” Arguments about whether Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s controversial proposition was even about the environment or whether it was an attempt to reshape the country’s economy in her image notwithstanding, the climate strike that took place at the College of William and Mary was as ineffective as it was irresponsible.

Let us just suspend our belief for a minute and pretend that fossil fuel billionaires even remotely cared what a bunch of 20-somethings thought — what are they going to do, just cease to exist? How about the politicians who jump at their whim — just stop taking money from the fuels lobby?

Such naivete is to be commended.

The truth is that as students on this campus, we are privileged. I don’t care what socioeconomic status or race or religion you are — we are all at a level of privilege unattainable by those who did not gain admission this university or to any other institution held in higher regard than ours. Every single one of us is privileged, but those that chose to skip class or skip studying or skip anything else worthwhile in order to “demonstrate” on the Sunken Garden — you really went out and displayed your privilege.

Talk about elitism.

So, what should you have done if you really cared about the environment? You could have contacted your congressmen and encouraged them to vote for supportive environmental measures.

You could be green in your own lives — recycling and considering sustainability. There are actual things you can do to make your difference! An extremely relevant way we could have protested climate change and government inaction would have been a tree planting ceremony.

The Amazon rainforest is disappearing within our lifetimes, and obviously one tree cannot make up for that — but it would have sent the message that we are not just a bunch of angry, immature, unlearned teenagers without aim, but rather a group of concerned, mature citizens who care about making a difference.

If students at the College are going to flaunt their privilege and act as “faux environmentalists,” then the least they can do is actually do something.

But hey: at least you got some really good Instagram stories out of signaling your virtue.

Email Gavin Aquin at gaaquin@email.wm.edu.