Today, Fossil Free Gonzaga will speak at the Earth Day Live coverage event, where environmental and humanitarian activists virtually mobilize the annual environmental movement.
Earth Day Live began Wednesday, on the 50th annual Earth Day, and will feature a three-day livestream where millions of people can join activists, celebrities, musicians and more in “an epic moment of community and hope for the future,” according to the live stream website, Earthdaylive2020.org. The three days are dedicated to themes of striking, divesting and voting.
Fossil Free Gonzaga, the student-led divestment campaign that urges the university’s board of trustees to take away any investments the university has in the fossil fuel industry, is presenting on a local streamline to the Inland Northwest region at 4 p.m. PT. The club will host a virtual teach-in to cover the history and timeline of Fossil Free Gonzaga and will call on faculty and other professional supporters to educate listeners on the process and importance of divesting.
“We’re fortunate to receive that invitation from Brian Henning, and we are excited to host,” said Will Holland, a senior at GU and the club president.
Brian Henning is the environmental studies department chair at GU and the founder of the environmental activist movement, 350 Spokane, a regional chapter of a larger global movement against the climate crisis.
“It’s a strange kind of set up when you haven’t left your apartment in a month, and it feels weird, but there is definitely still room for activism,” Holland said. “By participating in Earth Day Live, you’re standing up to injustice across the world and you’re tuning in to hear people who are on the front lines of these issues. So, it’s going to be a good day.”
Ellen Bradley, the club's vice president and a GU senior studying biology and environmental studies, also works with unfaltering passion for the divestment movement as school and life goes online.
“Pretty much everyone in the world that normally celebrates Earth Day by going on a hike or doing something outside couldn’t do that this year, which speaks to the extent of the global pandemic like COVID, but also speaks to the fact that it’s so connected to climate change in the way that future pandemics and diseases develop, that this might be a new norm,” Bradley said. “Our ability to actually celebrate Earth Day in large collectives is limited because things like this are so common with a changing climate.”
During the 2019-20 academic school year, the club arranged constant movements and meetings, including leading the GU coalition to the youth-led global climate strike in September, meeting with the investment committee of board of trustees, and working with GU President Thayne McCulloh and Joe Smith, GU's CFO, to meet with administration. The club also hosted a rally outside of the John J. Hemmingson Center, and planned to host a sit-in in the president’s office after spring break before classes went online.
“For us, COVID has worked against the ways we’ve historically been able to meet with the board and meet with students,” Holland said. “It throws a wedge in everything, but there’s still a potential to have something important to say and hear by getting involved with things like Earth Day Live and learning from people across the globe that are doing really cool things not only for the environment, but that align with social justice.”
On a local scale, the club is excited and proud to be leaders in environmental and humanitarian stewardship, and believe the GU institution should be a leader, too.
“Gonzaga University is a big institution in this region of Eastern Washington and has a unique responsibility to set the tempo for what it means to be a good actor in this area,” Holland said.
“Gonzaga has a uniquely moral duty to divest," Bradley said. "There are so many other Catholic institutions that have divested, very specifically because they have the moral duty to do so because of Laudato Si, which is the Pope’s encyclical on our common home that indicates that Catholic institutions need to do whatever in their power to protect our common home."
The club bases its mission and values off of the Jesuit mission of the university, and is dedicated to reminding the board of trustees of these values.
“It’s really a humanitarian issue,” Holland said. “People that are most impacted by the fossil fuel industry are the poor and vulnerable who are on the front lines, where water sources are tainted and their air is polluted. So that’s what this really is — it’s to keep the planet alive so we can continue to pursue our futures, but it’s also for people all over the globe and especially those who are most vulnerable.”
“And I know students at Gonzaga will always be passionate about issues of social justice like this one and I just wish that the administration and the board of trustees were as passionate about those social justice issues they're educating on us to be passionate about,” Bradley added.
Fossil Free Gonzaga is excited to speak on its mission and work today at 4 p.m., and invites all students, alumni, faculty, staff and Spokane members to Zoom into Earth Day Live.
“We’re going to need the support of community members in this escalation, and we think that community members, alumni, and anyone who cares about the University has great influence,” Holland concluded.