By Ada Statler
Although it is perhaps better known to Stanford students for its countdown to Big Game each fall, White Plaza’s current countdown reads, “Days until Paris: 60, demand climate action.” This countdown is just one of the things Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) and a coalition of other student groups on campus have been organizing to increase climate change awareness.
This push is a part of the national Know Tomorrow campaign leading up to the 2015 International Paris Climate Conference, also known as the 21st Conference of Parties (COP-21). A National Day of Action and rally will be held on Friday in White Plaza to kickstart the rest of the campaign.
At Stanford, the campaign is a joint project between many student groups on campus. The rally itself will host a variety of groups and speakers, ranging from guest speaker Former Vice President Al Gore, to social-justice themed a cappella group Talisman, to the Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO), to Stanford faculty members, to the Sexual Health Peer Resource Center (SHPRC).
While there is an umbrella organization of environmental student groups called the Green Alliance for Innovative Action (GAIA) that meets each year to endorse ASSU candidates, the Know Tomorrow participants come from a greater number of disciplines and focuses. According to event organizer and SSS member John Zhao ’18, the wide array of groups intends to recognize the ways climate change and environmental issues can affect underserved populations and many other global issues such as food security and health.
“All these different groups are participating because we want to highlight the fact that climate change is inherently a social justice issue,” Zhao said. “Many mainstream climate movements tend to ignore that climate change disproportionately affects the impoverished and communities of color.”
In addition to presenting the intersection of multiple issues related to climate change, SSS hopes to present the movement through as many mediums as possible. For Maria Doerr ’17, this means organizing Environmental Art Mixers to support the campaign and reach new audiences on campus.
“This is not just a movement for environmentalists,” Doerr said. “Artists and people interested in social justice across disciplines are all included, and art bridges that gap and says we all have a place in this movement.”
According to Charlie Jiang ’16, SSS president, the goal of the campaign is not only to raise awareness on campus but also to pressure real world change. One way the coalition hopes to do this is by collecting signatures on the Know Tomorrow petition, which intends to serve as the primary petition of millennials demanding leaders to commit to cutting carbon emissions.
This specific petition was made by Know Tomorrow’s national organization with the intention of giving millennials a voice in the climate conversation.
“We want to use the petition to demonstrate how many students have decided to turn out on this one day to show that we are able to come together when the time is necessary,” said Jiang. “This petition will be taken to [the Paris COP-21] and delivered to the people who are making these real decisions.”
Focusing again on this Friday’s rally, Jiang said he hopes to bring out as many people as possible from as many corners of campus as possible.
“Success for us means turnout because we want this to reach a wide section of the community,” Jiang said. “Success means bringing to light the issue of social justice in climate change and the critical role this will play in December and beyond.”
Contact Ada Throckmorton at adastat ‘at’ stanford.edu.