Maine— Students across the state have created a coalition to demand greater statewide urgency in addressing climate change.
Maine Students for Climate Justice (MSCJ) was started by student leaders from Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, College of the Atlantic, University of New England, University of Southern Maine, and University of Maine, Orono. Reaching out to other colleges, they are broadening their front in ongoing national efforts to address climate change, from divesting colleges, churches and cities from fossil fuel corporations, to halting tar sands production.
“Climate change isn’t just an issue that our grandchildren will face. It’s affecting communities worldwide, right now,” said Aurie Ingraham-Adie, coalition member from University of New England. “We’re not waiting for graduation to start making change.”
One of the MSCJ’s first projects is to divest more Maine colleges from fossil fuels. With two Maine colleges —Unity College and College of the Atlantic— already divested, Maine students are eager to remain in the forefront of the national movement to divest higher learning institutions from fossil fuels. Students are engaged in active divestment campaigns at Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin colleges, Maine College of Art, University of New England, University of Southern Maine, and University of Maine Farmington and Orono.
“This coalition is going to make all of our divestment campaigns stronger,” said Iris SanGiovanni, from University of Southern Maine. “We are learning from each other, and we’re ready to stand up for each other to demand divestment throughout Maine.”
“Divestment is going to happen,” said Meaghan LaSala, a MSCJ member from University of Southern Maine. “Fossil fuel divestment is the fastest growing divestment movement ever. Maine can choose to be a leader or a follower.”
“Divestment is a good way for people to do something about this very imminent crisis,” said Lucas Burdick, College of the Atlantic student. “Divesting your school from fossil fuels makes a serious symbolic statement about the gravity of climate change. Sending that message, that planetary stability is more important than return on profit, matters.”
Currently, students from College of the Atlantic and from University of New England are in attending the UN climate talks Warsaw, Poland. Home in Maine, members of MSCJ are closely following the student coverage of the conference.
Nathan Thanki, a CoA student, spoke from Poland to members of MSCJ. “Maine’s coastal impacts will be severe,” he said. “Even if Maine stopped emitting, the rest of the worlds emissions would mean we suffer all the negative impacts. So we need some bigger picture thinking.”
In late October, 80 students from MSCJ attended PowerShift, one of the largest convergences of youth climate activists in the country .
“Powershift reminded me that we’re not alone,” said Iris SanGiovanni. “There are communities all around the world who are standing up, too. Young people everywhere realize that we’re on track for a climate disaster. We’re the ones that need to change the course of history.”
After successfully organizing students to go to PowerShift, MSCJ is looking towards larger actions in the future— from statewide campaigns like divestment, to bringing youth voices to the state legislature, and to community struggles like the efforts to resist Tar Sands transportation in Maine. MSCJ is planning a Student Summit at Maine’s first Climate Solutions Summit and Expo in March— an event to bring people together from across sectors to forge real climate solutions, from academia, to community groups, and public policy makers.
Maine Students for Climate Justice Mission:
Maine Students for Climate Justice (MSCJ), is a student-run coalition dedicated to confronting the systems and institutions fueling the climate crisis. We bring youth voices to the climate struggle in Maine, and provide resources and support for one another as we work towards ecological sustainability and social justice.
Meaghan LaSala — University of Southern Maine
Ethan Zwirn — Bates College