Andover Responds to Climate Change with Activism and Education

Student activists gathered in support of environmental policy to address global climate change.

On the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall, students gathered at Andover’s first Climate Strike on September 20. There, they exchanged stories of personal experiences that were influenced by the effects of global warming and called for further activist efforts to change domestic and international environmental policy. Later that day, the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) invited David Wallace-Wells to speak during the inaugural Climate Cafe meeting.
The Climate Cafe is the OWHL’s year-long informal exploration into climate change, which will encourage students to further their understanding of the scientific reasoning behind the crisis, and to think about solutions that could work on the global scale. Their first speaker, Wallace-Wells, is the Deputy Editor for the New York Magazine and the author of “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming,” a book that scrutinizes the philosophical and political ramifications that potentially could result from climate disaster.
“If you care about poverty, inequality, violence, social disarray, famine, hunger, and mental health, there is a relation between these and global warming as effects become real to us. No matter what you want to do for the next 50-100 years, climate will almost inevitably be a part of that. If we do not handle this crisis, we may not be able to deal with all of these other issues. That is how dramatic climate change really is,” said Wallace-Wells during his presentation.
Wallace-Wells emphasized how the environmental justice movement would benefit from acceptance of all forms of resistance, no matter the scale. He hopes that people understand that they are a global citizen and learn to hold responsibility for their actions and how they impact the environment. He believes that nations should demonstrate stewardship and work together to develop humane crisis-mitigating practices.
“Try to be empathetic and open-hearted as you can be in thinking about the world community as a whole. Do not live in denial. I think a humane response to this crisis is going to require, especially the wealthy nations of the world, a much more warm-hearted perspective on those in need than any other country that is active today. This is because we are responsible for the climate change, we benefited by extorting the environment, and now we are in a position to take more dramatic action than people elsewhere in the world,” said Wallace-Wells.
One example of youth-led advocacy was the climate strike led by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg that Andover students participated in. For Claire Brady ’20, a Co-Head of EcoAction and Co-Organizer of the Andover chapter of the Climate Strike, her goal was to use the strike to raise awareness of the burgeoning problem and how adolescents can contribute to the climate movement. According to Brady, approximately 30 people attended the Climate Strike.
“There was a lot of traction on a global scale to have climate strikes in your local communities and I felt like being part of the environmental club that I had a duty to help organize it on campus… I think a lot of it was to raise awareness and get a group of students on campus that might not necessarily be super into environmentalism to recognize what’s going on and to inform people,” said Brady.
Jessica Scott ’20, who attended the Climate Strike, believes that advocacy efforts also lie in the small, everyday actions that people can relate to, whether it be using sustainable materials or avoiding littering.
“On a smaller scale, I would say don’t be afraid to do the small things… whenever I see someone with a [Paresky] Commons cup, I’ll always remind them that [they] are bad for the environment. It might seem annoying, but even that means something. It’s the small things like picking up a piece of trash on the path when you see it… Honestly, talk to people about it and get as educated as you can about it because you can be as passionate about something as you want. [But] unless you have facts to back it up, you can’t really get that far. Focus on the small things and do research,” said Scott.
Wallace-Wells underscored that it is important for people to recognize that the contemporary age of climate change has radically evolved from the natural setting that the human species has become accustomed to. He is of the opinion that people have to be ready to develop new practices that can endure the new world that climate degradation will usher in.
“Everything that we know of as human life developed under temperature conditions that are no longer with us. We’ve evolved as animals under temperature conditions that are no longer here. We’ve developed agriculture and through agriculture, civilization under climate conditions that are no longer here. We’ve developed modern civilizations. Everything we know about ourselves as political actors and cultural actors and emotional beings and all of that is the result of climate conditions that are already gone,” said Wallace-Wells.
Wallace-Wells continued, “We are going to face a number of human obstacles because the global system as it exists today economically, politically, culturally, socially, is just not set up for the kind of transformative change that we need to secure anything that you and I will recognize as an appealing climate future. On top of that, we’re dealing with this crisis when our politics around the world are being deformed by growing nativism and populism and xenophobia and where we’re seeing so many countries retreating from international alliances and international organizations and the sense of shared fate which is really the main lesson of climate change.”