On September 1st, during Labor Day weekend, I was at a friend's wedding. This was the first wedding that I attended where a friend from college got married. Sure, I know of high school classmates who have been married and have seen other college classmates go off and get married, too. However there is something about witnessing a friend’s wedding that made me start thinking about how fast life will change in the next year.
This is the fall of my senior year at Goshen College and started my first couple of weeks with only three classes on my schedule. I decided to enroll part-time for school because I applied for a full-time position. I have a close friend who will move right after graduation and I plan to find a place of my own in early summer of next year. Oh and then there’s this blog.
Beyond my own life, there are unseen crises in the world among some of the most pivotal political scenes our generation has seen. A global climate movement had been brewing since last year thanks to Greta Thunberg, who has since sailed the Atlantic to activate the U.S. and Americas. The Amazon has continued to burn while the U.S. gears up for yet another round of highly contested presidential and congressional races. Despite all of this, we still make time to celebrate life and life-changing moments.
So I was there at the wedding, just a week into my last year of college, and then my phone rang.
It was Jason, a great friend and activist who has been for many years involved in the area’s most important social justice initiatives.
Quickly, I make my way outside and Jason introduces me to a Notre Dame student, an organizer with Sunrise South Bend. They tell me about plans to have a Climate Strike rally in South Bend on September 20th. They ask me if I could speak on immigration and environmentalism. I didn’t say yes immediately but a couple of weeks later I say yes. The rally would join others around the world as youth hope to begin a historic movement and change the course of our future.
I got very excited. That week, I spread the word on campus with fellow students. I felt that there was some good energy since the City of Goshen had just passed an ordinance that created an Environmental Resilience Department with funding and power to help move our city’s government to carbon neutrality. The ordinance passed in part due to the encouragement and initiative of youth in Goshen.
The ordinance was drafted by high school students while some fellow college students arrived the day that the ordinance was up for a vote to publicly comment in support of passing the ordinance. It was passed on September 3rd and signed by our Mayor on September 6th.
If being invited to a Climate Strike rally in South Bend and witnessing the creation of an Environmental Resilience Department in the city I love wasn’t enough, Goshen hosted the fourth Indiana Climate Leadership Summit on the 12th of this month. The summit was amazing. It was open to the public, high school students were there to participate and David Orr signed my copy of Dangerous Years after he gave the keynote speech of the summit. I suppose September is a great month for an environmentalist.
With all of this happening just before the grand Climate Strike rally, I felt hopeful that Goshen students would participate.
About 10 Goshen College students attended the Climate Strike rally in downtown South Bend this past Friday September 20th. As my group arrived, familiar faces from Goshen, Elkhart, and South Bend greeted me. I made my way to a cluster of organizers and speakers.
Only a couple of friends at the event knew that I was speaking, so others were not expecting me to be before the crowd.
One of the organizers greeted the approximately 300 or so folks that attended. He talked about why we were all here, his experience of growing up on a farm and the Green New Deal. Then he introduced the first speaker. The first speaker identified as an ordinary person, that included being a first year college student, a daughter, and some who simply enjoyed life. However, her definition of “an ordinary person” included being an environmental activist. She was there to fight for her 11 year old sister’s future. That caused me to think about my younger siblings and nephew. My nephew is only 18 months old…
I was the second to speak, and if you weren’t there, my speech is at the end of this blog post.
There were more speakers and the event was over soon. After the rally, my friends and I walked over for lunch to Cambodian Thai. We talked about the event and about what we thought the future might be. I think it’s likely that Goshen College and hopefully other students from Goshen Community Schools and Bethany Christian can organize an action or network that joins the Sunrise Movement.
Now would be a good time to learn more about the Sunrise Movement and Green New Deal.
Anyway, soon enough we simply transitioned towards enjoying a good meal and each others’ company.
During the ride back, I kept thinking of ways that I could potentially off-set or pay the full price for my trips to South Bend. I’m thinking that maybe planting a few number of trees may do it, but then feel limited in ideas of where I would plant a few hundred trees. That, and well I wouldn’t like to spend a fortune.
I haven’t figured it out just yet, but here’s a note for myself and for yourself. Next time, you and I will have taken a step towards paying the full price for the carbon we consume. Driving at least two times per week to South Bend for my new job makes me feel guilty, but also gives me the chance to listen to podcasts more regularly. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, the newest podcast I tune into is called A Sustainable Mind. The new podcast I’m listening to is the cherry on top of a month full of environmental events and learning.
Even in the doom and gloom world of ecojustice, good things are happening. I hope that this blog gives me a way to share with you my tension-filled perspective of the world, which at the end of the day is more hopeful than anything.
The mission of the blog is to give you food for thought and action every week through my personal perspective and experience, no one else’s. Bear with me as I figure this out and work on the couple of cliffhangers that I’m leaving you with in this first post. Some of details may surface between now and my next post, but that’s alright, there is plenty to write about.
Climate Strike: Speech on Climate Migration
My heart aches at the thought of my parents enduring a desert with me in arms. As I near the age that they would have been with a toddler on their backs crossing the Sonoran desert, I can only imagine their journey under a scorching sun and their search for refuge among thorns at night.
I stand before you as I reflect on this image in my mind and the images we’ve all seen the families journeying together from Central America. I choke up with tears thinking of the estranged child who meets her parent after months of being under the care of another child. My parents arrived to Goshen, Indiana with my three year old self and my 18 month old sister.
I grew up knowing I was undocumented, but it didn’t mean much until I grew into my mid teenage years when our peers begin to get their driver’s licenses.
My status became a national topic as I watched young high school graduates that looked like me manifest on Capitol Hill and in front of the White House. People in their late teens and early twenties, undocumented, risked deportation in order to draw attention and demand a pathway towards citizenship. You see, we believe it is not a crime to migrate in search of a better future.
I am privileged in that I was too young or too unconnected to have joined these protests and simply benefited from a program called DACA, which now allows me to temporarily work legally in the U.S.
Even then, do note that it is not permanent.
Being undocumented does not mean much until you think about university or your future. I am a first generation high school graduate.
I am a Dreamer and doer, so I didn’t sit around. I enrolled into Goshen College to study environmental science because I couldn’t bear the thought of vanishing coral reefs. You see, I did not grow up visiting national parks or in a family farm. I grew up in Goshen, a small midwestern city, but even then by some chance I happened to love the National Geographic channel. I couldn’t get enough of documentaries on the Serengeti and the Amazonian Rainforest.
Science was my favorite topic since elementary, and only since high school, really, have I felt obligated to fight for justice.
Being young doesn’t mean anything until you suddenly realize that you are awake in the midst of a Climate and Human Rights Crisis.
The uncertainty that threatens our future is haunting, catastrophic.
However, the resilience wielded by the parents willing to trek thousands of miles on sheet thin footwear while carrying enfants is nothing short of inspiring and hopeful. The pain transcended by parents to give their children a better future is the kind of inspiration this movement requires if we are to make it alive on the other side. We learn more and more each year that we, the living things and systems of this planet are far more intricately connected than previously thought. So that our voices today are being heard seven generations away and that our actions today help save a family an odyssey of 2000 miles through adversity.
We no longer have the luxury of looking away.
We need a Green New Deal that acknowledges the violent transgressions of our society to the least of our neighbors within and beyond our borders. We need a Green New Deal that makes amends by providing just pathways to green jobs and gives refuge to the Climate Refugees we created by allowing greedy giants take advantage of lax laws.
We need and should demand a more just and equitable future.