Westmont holds “Climate Week” in response to COP26

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Ethan Vaughan, The Horizon

Dr. Song, Dr. Schloss, Chloe Blish, and Katie Knapp speak at “Conversations That Matter”

Willow Martin, Staff Writer

Last week, Westmont joined in the conversations about climate change during the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. At the conference, global leaders are gathering from Oct. 31 through Nov. 12 to discuss the steps necessary to end climate change.

As global leaders tackle more internationally focused issues at COP26, Westmont encouraged students to contemplate the relationship between faith and sustainability on campus. The Westmont College Student Association (WCSA) partnered with the Students for Sustainability Club to host a number of environment-focused events in an initiative called “Climate Week.” 

Students for Sustainability works at the intersection of global issues and personal and religious convictions. “One of the focuses of our club is pushing creation care. It’s our responsibility to be stewards of this Earth.” said Grace Gantt, a sustainability club member and helper at Friday’s What’s Next Table.

The week began on Monday, Nov. 1, with a chapel talk on creation care by Dr. Sandra Richter, a religious studies professor, who encouraged students to care about the environment because God cares. Other events included a table outside the DC with information about climate change, a “Conservations That Matter” panel, and a prayer vigil to bless the conference in Glasgow. 

Students flooded onto the DC lawn on Tuesday, Nov. 2 to listen to Dr. Ed Song, Dr. Jeff Schloss and students Chloe Blish and Katie Knapp speak at this week’s WCSA-run “Conversations That Matter.” The driving question of the panel was not the definition of climate change, but rather why we should care and how we can combat its effects. Is the solution to climate change political? Is it economic? Is it technological? Is it social? 

“The fact of the matter is that we have all the technologies that we need to adequately tackle the problem,” said Professor Song on Tuesday.

Song pointed out that climate change may be a monetary problem. President Biden’s anticipated two trillion dollar budget to combat environmental issues will most likely settle at 500 billion dollars.

Panelist Dr. Shloss pointed to individual habits as a possible solution to climate change issues. “Our addiction to consumerism is the root of the decay of environmentalism … The average person in our culture can name more cans of beer than they can native plant species.”  

Students for Sustainability leader Conrad Morgan believes Climate Week should impact Westmont institutionally as well as individually. “When it comes to just talking about climate change and the environmental crisis we’re in, it has to be an ongoing conversation and an integral part of our community here at Westmont,” he said. “We’ve seen sustainability initiatives rise and fall here on campus. The resources, faculty, staff and student interest are there, but it takes institutional recognition and change for us to see things come to fruition.”

Morgan challenged the student body to work together to create permanent change. “My individual change, if that’s all it is, can’t change the world. What can change the world, however, is young people, like the students at Westmont, coming together to use their voice, their votes, their influence to show world leaders and leaders at Westmont that we will not stay quiet, that we will fight for our future, for the future of our children and our grandchildren.”

Initiatives like Climate Week seek to train students to ask larger and broader questions about creation and our world. When it comes to solutions to climate change, “the most leverage will come from young people,” said Shloss. “We are tasked with making the systemic, economic and political changes that will define the quality of life for the future generation.”

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