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Protesting against fossil fuels with UMCA

                           Photo by Erika Hipsky

On Friday, March 3, a group of students and community members gathered on the steps of Fogler Library to protest multiple climate change issues.

The strike was hosted by the University of Maine Climate Action organization (UMCA), a group of students who regularly advocate for climate change related causes.

The climate strike occurred in solidarity with Fridays for Future, a global climate strike organization started by Gen Z activist Greta Thunberg. This week’s strike was focused on fossil fuel funding.

Max McDonough, a third-year human dimensions of climate change student, is an organizer for the UMCA and delivered opening remarks for the event.

McDonough hopes that UMaine will eventually abandon the use of fossil fuels entirely, including halting fossil fuel related funds for research.

“It’s the principle,” McDonough stated. “We’re trying to end the finances. Science cannot be independent if the fossil fuel companies are financing it.”

Dr. Sonja Birthisel is a faculty associate with the UMaine School of Forest Resources and Ecology and Environmental Sciences Program who joined the strike.

“The New England region has a higher reserve margin than any other place in the nation,” Birthisel said. “We’re burning more fuels and creating more electricity than we need.”

This energy surplus is one of the many pressing issues that students focused on climate change have on their minds. Birthisel discussed the singular coal plant left in Maine, and how her research on Maine’s energy grid shows that more coal is being burned than could be produced by that mill.

“It’s all hidden very opaquely under layers of bureaucracy and law,” Birthisel said of the largely unknown fossil fuel issues.

A crowd of individuals gathered to march around the mall and deliver chants related to fossil fuel dismantling, garnering cheers from passersby.

“The turnout was really great for the cold of March in Maine,” said Tamra Benson, a core organizer for UMaine Climate Action. “We had some amazing speakers, we had a great time singing and chanting around the Mall, and we were able to do several direct actions during the event,” Benson said.

The direct actions included writing student testimonies to be delivered to UMaine executives, the circulation of written petitions and survey distributions.

“A lot of times, climate strikes feel very focused on making noise, which is important for raising awareness, but often forget about the action part. It felt great to make some noise and take several concrete actions in one climate strike,” Benson added. “I’m extremely grateful for all of the people who attended and showed support for UMaine Climate Action, and I look forward to the rest of the semester.”

UMCA meets Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in the Walker Room on the third floor of the Union.

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