As the climate itself pushes into more dangerous territory, tensions are running high across the world on how to save our planet and people from impending disasters. At the University of Connecticut, this tension has coalesced in the formation of a Fridays for Future group on campus. A few weeks ago, people marched to Gulley Hall, giving the options of immediate action by the administration to address their demands or sit-ins at the president’s office.
Last Friday, these sit-ins began. However, they began amid immediate action, at least by the University’s standards. President Thomas Katsouleas sent out an email days before the protest addressing climate concerns, albeit without mention of the Fridays for Future movement. So, why did students not consider this enough?
The main problem with the email is that it lacks any sort of statement, either to students or the public. There’s nothing groundbreaking here. Much of the first few paragraphs consists of UConn patting itself on the back or speaking in large generalities. People who are outraged don’t want to hear that Connecticut is working to meet emission reduction goals; they want to hear how and what the state is doing!
By the same token, hearing about the creation or alignment of bureaucracies towards sustainability is a little deflating. The Fridays for Future movement shouted, “Climate action now!” when they marched, not “Climate action after a year of deliberation.” There are very simple steps UConn could make to meet some of the demands, but they are not making the effort.
To the credit of Katsouleas and the administration, the situation is much more complicated than students may know. As alluded to in the email, there are legitimate financial concerns about, for example, divesting the UConn Foundation from fossil fuel holdings. For many of the demands, time is needed to make changes. While the more cynical may still view this statement as a PR move, it may be more helpful to see it as a declaration of interest by the administration in combating climate change.
With that view, perhaps we don’t have to see the email or the sit-ins as the actions of two opposing sides. The sit-ins are simply a reiteration that this issue won’t get hidden away, with the email being a way for Katsouleas to agree with this, at least in some form. Only time will tell, but it is clear that strong, long-lasting action is needed by both sides in order to make any actual progress in reducing UConn’s carbon footprint.