October 17, 2019

Geneva students strike for climate

Students of Webster Geneva took to the streets to strike for climate action. 

Students in the St. Louis area were not the only Webster students who participated in global “Fridays for Future” climate strikes. 

On Friday, 19 students from Webster University Geneva picketed the Swiss city’s downtown area with handmade signs.

Media communications major Yasmin Khan said a large majority of protesters called for action against capitalist political systems. These systems are responsible for the lack of urgency in regard to the climate crisis, according to Khan. 

Liane Shakhsheer holds a sign that says “School strike for climate” in Swedish during the Sept. 27 climate strike in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Gabriella Vernon.

The students involved acted as part of the Webster Ecological Association’s (WEA). Their strike included the students standing in front of Swiss banks chanting, “Anti-capitalism, anti capitalism!” 

Chicago-native David Bramlette founded the WEA at the Geneva campus with Khan last year. Bramlette said he would rather bring people into the climate movement than push them away, including associates of big banks. 

“Sure, capitalism is complicit in the development of climate change, but so are you and me and everybody else,” Bramlette said. 

Bramlette did not attend the strike due to a test. He said he did not think striking was enough. 

“People in Switzerland can strike all they want,” Bramlette said. “They can have the perfect trash sorting and composting system, but if we don’t keep the U.S. from dumping trash into the ocean, it’s all for nothing.” 

Most plastic waste in oceans comes from Asia, according to a 2015 study done by Science, a journal from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

The U.S. dumps 242 million pounds of plastic into the ocean annually, according to the same study. 

Khan said she worries about the future if nothing is done to combat the climate crisis. 

“My biggest fear is that we will only see concrete action against climate change once it begins to affect the richest and most privileged demographics in our society,” Khan said. “Until then, millions of vulnerable people will pay a devastating price for earth’s ecological devastation.”  

Swiss news sources reported that over 2,000 people attended the strike. 

Geneva psychology student Gabrielle Vernon said she felt individuals in Geneva striked for similar reasons as Americans. 

“I looked at signs people brought to the strike and it was clear that they too feel that the government can do more to combat climate change,” Vernon said. 

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Protesters hoisted signs with written platitudes such as, “Protect our future,” “Why aren’t you guys doing anything? We’re all gonna die,” and “If you were smarter, we’d all be in school.” 

The protest’s energy felt electric, Khan said. Teenagers ditched school. Mothers brought their babies in carriages, and elderly people chanted along with university students. 

Drummers led the protesters in chants. People danced to the beat under the hot sun according to Khan. 

“We were there because we were angry, passionate and scared to death, but seeing the solidarity and determination of our community made everyone joyous,” Khan said.  

Vernon said the climate strike felt powerful. 

French speakers countered an English cheer a few Webster students created. 

Et un et deux, et trois degrés, c’est un crime contre l’humanité, protesters chanted, meaning, “One and two and three degrees, it’s a crime against humanity.” 

The chant referenced a report made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) created in October 2018. The reports warned of threats the earth would face if the planet’s temperature rose. Many countries would face famine, drought or extreme weather. 

WEA mainly focuses on policy reform, Khan said. The organization is currently working with the Webster Humanitarian Association on the Geneva campus to raise money for a tree-planting project in Iraq. 

Khan said she someday hopes to see positive change. 

“I believe the only way to truly confront climate change is through political reform,” Khan said. “We are already in a period of global political unrest. Though I believe this reform is essential, I fear to some extent the consequences of more political clashes.”

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