Marching Forth for Climate Justice

By: Sachie Hopkins Hayakawa, Sally Bunner, and Lauren Ressler
March 4, 2013

Power Up! Divestment Convergence

Today is March 4th, 2013. On this day, hundreds of students across the country are marching forth for climate justice. Actions have taken place on campuses nationwide, including a banner drop at Haverford College, marches through the snow at Syracuse University and Middlebury College, creative engagement  at Yale University and Mt. Holyoke College, and many more are planned throughout the day. On a surprising note, Hampshire’s president Jonathan Lash snapped a photo with students wearing the orange square as his first public endorsement of fossil fuel divestment.

In the last year, fossil fuel divestment campaigns have sprung up on over 250 campuses nationally. However, as we move forward, we are expanding our scope beyond divestment and taking strides towards a just and inclusive climate movement. This means learning from the histories of those communities who have been confronting the dirty energy industry for decades, building coalitions with those who are most impacted by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and fostering local acts of resistance and solidarity.

Today, as students take action across the country, many of us will be wearing orange squares pinned to our chests. We have chosen to wear this symbol in solidarity with other student power movements internationally — most notably the Quebec Student Movement.

The red square of the Quebec Student Movement draws its origins from “carrément dans le rouge,” meaning “squarely in the red,” and refers to the condition of students trapped by immense debt. The red square was embraced by the 2005 student strike in Canada and became a symbol of solidarity for the student movement globally that signifies a belief in free education. “Institutional memory is critical to cultivating a lasting student power movement with graduation an ever present reality; sharing this symbol and the story of how this has grown is deeply a part of building that”, reflects Anthony Garoufalis-Auger a student from Concordia University, in Montreal.

In Quebec in 2012, as students marched through the streets, businesses would hang red squares in their front windows and many community allies wore them publicly. It is a powerful visibility tool that has become nearly ubiquitous in Canada and has fostered a sense of collective identity. Quebec students emphasize that it requires few resources to produce and is comprised of readily accessible materials. That being said, last year Quebec stores ran out of red fabric and cloth as the movement spread from classrooms to community spaces.

We have chosen the color orange, rather than green, to reframe our movement’s scope as much larger than an environmental issue. This is not a single-issue movement. This is a space where environmental justice, climate justice, and economic justice have come into contact. We understand that we will not win the fight against the dirty energy industry without confronting racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and other systems of oppression in our movement spaces. The climate movement is still a young movement, but we understand our historical responsibility on an international scale.

“When we talk about the 11 or so million people who are undocumented, we need to remember that they’re mostly from the Global South. They have been divested of their language, their land, their wealth, and their climate by the global north. Migration under those circumstances in normal. Global south migration to the global north is the direct consequence of climate debt,” said Aura Bogado at last week’s student divestment convergence.

We are stronger as a movement when we recognize and celebrate the breadth of identities among us. The future of all our communities are bound together; tackling a problem of this magnitude requires both reciprocal communication and collaborative action. We must create a culture that breaks down systems of oppression while building up our collective power.

If this symbol of the orange square resonates with you, we urge you to claim it as your own. However, there are many signs of this collective struggle and we embrace all that speak for climate justice. Come to this struggle as you are, and join us as we work to create a just and thriving future.

Photo Credit: Sachie Hopkins Hayakawa and Zein Nakhoda


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