UT students, community march for climate action 

Leila Saidane, News Reporter

Over 100 UT students and community members marched from the Tower to the Capitol on Friday as part of an international climate movement and to encourage the Texas Legislature to hold the Electric Reliability Council of Texas accountable for 2021’s winter storm-induced power failures. The marchers also called for an expansion of climate education, while Students Fighting Climate Change continues to demand divestment.

Members of Students Fighting Climate Change, the Austin Climate Coalition, the Sierra Club and other community activists gathered for Fridays for Future, an international climate action movement. The march called for the prevention of environmental inequities through climate education, which can help people understand the climate crisis and how they can help, said Adam Day, a co-director of Students Fighting Climate Change.

The student organization is currently working with the dean of students, the provost and the director of sustainability on a climate action plan, which should be done by the end of the year, said Day, a sustainability studies and social work junior.

“We’re still dissatisfied with (the plan) because it only addresses on-campus emissions,” Day said. “It doesn’t even talk about how the UT System is totally in the hands of West Texas directly taking oil out of the ground and investing in it, so that’s where our goal is going towards. We’re happy that we were able to accomplish something so big in such a short amount of time, but we’re always going to push for something more.”

Students Fighting Climate Change has continuously called for the UT Board of Regents to stop the University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company’s investments in fossil fuels, encouraging the organization to reinvest its assets into environmentally responsible industries. The group is also petitioning for University administration to acknowledge the climate crisis and commit to a climate action plan. 

Latino studies freshman Demian Chavez who attended the rally said he finds the University’s holdings in fossil fuels unsustainable and hopes the University divests its holdings as Columbia University did earlier this year

“Texas is a state that is rich because of its natural fossil fuel, but Texas also has amazing green energy that it should be taking full advantage of,” Chavez said. “There is no reason for this state or this University to so stubbornly hold on to an unsustainable future. As a direct beneficiary of the resources and wealth that comes from UT’s oil holdings, I feel a responsibility to push for UT to divest its holdings.”

In addition to climate education, Alexia Leclercq, research analyst and organizer for the People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources, an East Austin climate justice group led by women and people of color, spoke against a new jet field depot that the city plans to construct in Southeast Austin.

Leclercq urged attendees to contact City Council members and oppose the construction of the jet field depot. The depot’s site historically had a 52-acre tank storage facility that caused high groundwater contamination that resulted in 15 years of cleanup, Leclercq said. 

“It’s not a matter of if it will leak, it’s a matter of when it will leak,” Leclercq said. “We’ve already seen what has happened historically. Everyone deserves to live in a toxic-free environment, and community members have to stand up for them because injustice anywhere is really injustice everywhere.”