Patricia Mathu
Mercury Staff

Two environmentally-focused clubs at UTD headed to downtown Dallas to participate in a global protest to draw attention towards climate change.

On Sept. 20, the Environmental Conservation Organization and the Citizens Climate Lobby took part in the international global climate strike. With an estimated 4 million people striking globally, UTD students participated in the international discourse about climate justice and sustainability.

The global climate strike, also known as the Global Week for Future, was a series of strikes from Sept. 20-27. The international culmination of events that took place on Sept. 20, including the strike UTD students attended in Dallas, made world history as the largest protests about climate change. 

Inspired by figures like 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg, the Facebook page advertising the strike said it “is about much more than emissions and scientific metrics — it’s about fighting for a just and sustainable world.” Global business senior Helia Alaghemand, who serves as ECO’s president, said this was their club’s first political event.

“It is hard to not be political in this day and age when it comes to the environment,” Alaghemand said.

CCL president and neuroscience senior Malissa Owen said club members were excited to try out this event, which was unlike things they have pursued in the past. 

“(CCL wants) to be more about talking face-to-face to representatives, but we thought this was a good way to go out, meet new people, and advocate for something advantageous that we’re passionate about,” Owen said.

Lucas Eddy, a physics senior and CCL officer, said club members are typically wary of what they’re involved with.

“The organization itself is nonpartisan, so we try to be careful with what we get involved in,” Eddy said.

Computer science senior Sarina Mak, who serves as vice-president of ECO, said an estimated 15 students from ECO and CCL carpooled downtown for the rally. In addition, Mak said she saw familiar UTD faces. 

“There were lots of other people from UTD, including some faculty,” She said. “I was also surprised to see people not associated with any environmental clubs there. That was cool.”

The strike was held downtown on the Continental Bridge, the pedestrian accompaniment to the iconic Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. It started at 7 p.m. with a native blessing and rally featuring speakers in the Dallas-area environmental movement.

As the sun set, participants began walking across the bridge. Halfway through, the group gathered at a rally point to chant statements pushing for the Green New Deal, a legislation proposal addressing climate change and economic inequality, and a reduction of fossil fuel consumption before finishing the walk. To end, participants did a “die-in” for climate, where they laid on the ground and organizers traced them in chalk. They wrote aspects of climate change that killed them inside their silhouettes.

Chay Creswell, ECO Community Leader and biochemistry senior, attended the march.

“We have to do something. The world is too complacent for us to not try something,” Creswell said. “Senioritis is taking a different route with me, I guess.”

Creswell said he has had a passion for justice and attended the Women’s March in 2017, but has recently become more cognizant about ways to address his advocacy towards environmentalism.

“I wanted to do something more than just help people,” Creswell said. “I also wanted to change my habits so I can be better for the environment, so that propelled me to actually do something.”

Mak said for many other ECO club members, this was their first political march altogether.

“They felt really empowered by it,” Mak said. “A lot of them were really inspired and want to do more political things.”

Alaghemand said she hopes clubs like ECO and CCL give students an outlet when they feel inspired to act on climate change.

“I think the majority of UTD students are passionate about this, they just aren’t sure where their outlet is when it comes to enacting change and being involved in the process,” Alaghemand said. “That is what is good about having a club like ECO on campus where they can all collaborate.”

Since the climate march, Mak said ECO’s group chat has been more active than it was in her three prior years. Algahemand said she was happy to see this increase in participation from students.

“It is great to see that change,” Alaghemand said. “People want to get involved. They want to do things on campus and they want to be more involved in getting things done in Richardson, in Dallas and in the US. Everyone is so passionate and it is so exciting because that is what we want to see.” 

Alaghemand added that ECO members are looking forward to feeding off this inspiration and catalyzing collaboration.

“Even if protesting is not your thing, there are more ways to enact change,” Alaghemand said. “If you have any desire or passion to make a difference environmentally, find your way in it. Whether it is political, talking to people, educating people, protesting. Whether it is making a huge, bold statement, whether it’s creating artwork, whether it’s writing. Find your outlet because it is going to make a difference.”