A building is clearly burning, with smoke pouring out of the windows, but many don’t believe it to be happening or walk by ignoring the smoke, hoping other people will take care of it.
This is the analogy rally organizer Mike Selmer used when describing the climate change debate and the need to act during his opening statement Monday afternoon at the Carbon Sink Lives! A Witness to Climate Change rally at the University of Wyoming’s Prexy’s Pasture.
“The age of polite requests has ended,” Selmer said to crowd applause. “This isn’t something of the future. It’s now, and we can no longer just walk by ignoring the looming crisis that we face.”
Around 50 UW students, faculty and staff as well as members of the community attended the rally and listened to testimonies about climate change’s impact and calling for the university to act.
“We need to prepare for the changes and challenges our future will bring, not fear them and not avoid them,” Selmer said.
Keynote speakers for the event included Dalya Johana Smith Meacham, a survivor of the Camp Fire in California that left her town of 30,000 devastated, and Juwan Willow, a Native American UW student speaking about climate change’s effects on indigenous culture.
Willow read a letter from the president of Oglala Sioux Nation that detailed how climate change has affected the tribes at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Flooding and unseasonably harsh late-winter storms have left the community reeling, with more than 1,500 people still displaced from their homes and many farmers losing their entire crop for 2019.
“The recovery from these late winter blizzards will take a long time and many resources,” Willow said at the rally. “The citizens of the Oglala Lakota nation do not have those resources. … Science tells us these stories are made worse by climate change; it is real, and it is affecting the Lakota nation now. Through resilience and strength, we will survive.”
After the statements, the group laid on a mat in the shape of a spiral, a human recreation of the 2011 art installation “Carbon Sink” by Chris Drury.
The controversial installation was featured on campus in 2011 before being removed by the UW president at the time, Tom Buchanan, after pressure from the fossil fuel industry.
A headstone was brought to the center of the spiral as the group hosted a funeral for humanity, the consequence to the world’s inaction.
Selmer said after the rally a group would bring a petition “calling for the university to acknowledge and take action on climate change” to the UW president’s office.
“We all know it’s not going to change anything, but we must speak out and keep speaking out until those in power take action and listen to us,” Selmer said during his introduction