Over 200 members of the Creighton community convened in the rain in front of St. John’s Church at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, April 25 in a demonstration called “Silence for the Climate.”
The event was organized to “call attention to the issue of climate change” and “to advocate for a change in university policy on the issue,” according to CUInvolved.
The event opened with a prayer and a speech by a Creighton student, followed by three minutes and 50 seconds of silence, representing the amount of carbon needed in the atmosphere for climate stability.
Garret Fox, a College of Arts and Sciences senior, said in his speech, “We’re here because we’re scared. I need not repeat the seriousness of the problem, the apocalyptic vision, measured and modeled, that is slowly coalescing before our eyes like a trickle before a torrent.”
Fox went on to provide statistics to remind participants of climate change’s “immediacy and its inequity.”
“The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] last year concluded that we have 12 years to reduce our global emissions by 45 percent to prevent 1.5℃ of warming and the suffering of hundreds of millions of people. And it should come as no surprise that the poor and vulnerable, those least responsible for the swelling droughts, storms, and seas, will suffer the most if we fail.”
Fox then addressed the University directly saying, “Why then, Creighton, does [climate change action] seem so secondary here, so optional? Why is it that you never fail to brand yourself as green, as stewards, but continue to run things like you always have? You talk of plastic bags while taking stock in oil. You back the Paris Agreement while gas lighting an eternal flame. You tout your environmental programs while graduating hundreds uninformed and unaware of what’s at stake. You treat the climate crisis not as a crisis, not as a moral imperative, but as a marketing ploy. You take action as long as it is visible, as long as you are not the first, and as long as it doesn’t hurt your bottom line. Where is your sincerity? Where is your leadership? Why aren’t you scared like us?”
He outlined three demands that the protest was requesting: “1) Divest the endowment from all holdings in fossil fuel companies, 2) set a more ambitious carbon neutrality goal than that of 2050 and 3) make climate change education a requirement for all students.”
“We ask that [Creighton] come out and confront reality, that you uphold your mission, and that you stand with us here, in the rain, on the side of justice.”
In an interview, Fox said, “after meeting with Creighton administration about divestment and not getting anywhere for five months, we thought it was time to show how many people supported our cause.”
Caroline Adrian, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, read the opening prayer, Pope Francis’s “A Prayer for Our Earth.”
“I hope that the demonstration helped to foster a feeling of empowerment among Creighton community members,” Adrian said in an interview. “The future of our planet depends on action, not complacency, and this demonstration was an attempt to show that members of the Creighton community are willing mobilize and advocate for the University to step up to the plate and do more to take direct action.”
Belyna Bentlage, the sustainability coordinator in the Office of Sustainability Programs at Creighton, participated in the demonstration.
“I think Silence for the Climate went very well and I am grateful that we have such strong, intelligent, eloquent and empathic student leaders at Creighton,” Bentlage said. “Climate change is happening, the effects are being felt across the world and here in Nebraska, and we are the ones causing it. Attention was called to the climate crisis, specific actions were requested and students showed up in the rain to support the cause.”
She said that she wants to see Creighton take on “deeper commitments” and take “larger leaps” on campus in addressing climate change.
“While we have come a long way with advancing sustainability on campus, we have even further to go to more truly and justly reconcile our relationship with creation.”
Bentlage also encouraged those who are interested in learning more about the climate or sustainability on campus to visit the office’s greenhouse gas reporting, Climate Action Plan and Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System report.