USI students protest policies as Climate Strike hits Evansville

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USI and University of Evansville students, as well as concerned citizens of Evansville, gathered in front of the Civic Center on Sept. 20 to protest against the government for failing to address climate change and pollution. 

Activists chanted “Stand now or swim later,” “The wrong ICE is melting,” and “Our house is on fire” outside of the Civic Center in downtown Evansville, which houses all the offices for the city, including the mayor, Lloyd Winnecke, as well as the police department. 

William Bowens, a senior psychology major, attended the climate strike in Evansville Friday morning. Bowens has been a community activist for both political and environmental reasons for a few years. 

Bowens leads a political organization, Our Revolution Evansville, an ongoing progressive activism group formed out of the Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign. He also has connections to another environmental organization in Evansville, which has given him experience with organizing protests. 

Bowens heard about the international climate strikes that were scheduled to take place on Friday, so he and Elizabeth Bowers, the sophomore vice president of USI’s Sustainability Club, organized a strike in Evansville.

“It’s very important to take part in international strikes, but it was also important to do it in Evansville because I believe the mayor and city council haven’t been doing enough to address climate change,” Bowens said.

Millions of students protested against the climate change crisis all over the world on Sept. 20. The protests began after 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden stood outside her country’s parliament building bearing a sign that read “Skolstrejk För Klimatet,” or “School Strike for Climate.” Some take part in “Fridays for Future,” taking off school on Fridays to protest, according to FridaysForFuture.org. Strikes held all over the world Sept. 20 drew in millions of protestors of all ages. 

“Non-violent protests have always been the best way to bring about change,” Bowens said. “[Thunberg’s] idea is brilliant. It’s effective because it disrupts business as usual. If you have children not going to school, there’s obviously a problem.” 

Bowens hopes to get University of Evansville students to work with USI students, along with getting more high school students involved. He also plans on starting a group on campus that will organize and participate in protests. 

“Get involved in things collectively,” Bowens said. “Collective boycotts are the only effective boycotts. I hope people can see the example set by our strike and get involved in any way they can.”

Many organizations in Southern Indiana are fighting for change, such as Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life. This organization, led by Mary Hess, has been fighting against the proposal to build a coal-to-diesel plant in Dale, 50 miles east of Evansville. The plant will be four times the size of Dale, spanning 512 acres. It will not only be an eyesore to the area, but it will also emit a foul odor, pollute the air, and release waste into local waters. 

Southern Indiana is surrounded by seven “super polluters,” coal plants that emit greenhouse gases and harmful pollutants. 

Bowers, the vice president of Sustainability Club, registered the Evansville protest on globalclimatestrike.net. She hopes to use the organization to inform others of how to live a clean, zero-waste lifestyle, and help decontaminate the community.

“I hope to make USI a more environmentally friendly and sustainable place,” she said. 

The club is pushing the school to add more hand dryers on campus, as many buildings still use paper towels. 

“I want to bring change to Evansville,” said Ashley Hartung, president of Sustainability Club. “Above all, get educated…if you start doing stuff it becomes a ripple effect. Starting this and being here is doing that ripple effect.”

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