Earth Day is a protest, not just a holiday

Bianca Ring, Opinions Editor

Friday, April 22, is Earth Day. Students and staff at Union College are celebrating in a number of ways, including an Earth Day celebration on campus, and a rally organized by various organizations in Schenectady. The Earth Day celebration, hosted by U-Sustain and the Environmental Action Club, will be held this Friday in front of Schaffer Library, from 5 to 7PM. Different clubs and organizations will have tables where they can present their respective contributions and information about the sustainability movement. This event is a good opportunity for students to inform themselves about sustainability issues on both a local and global scale.

The Schenectady March for Climate is on Saturday morning at Schenectady City Hall, with a few speakers at the event before a mile-long march through downtown Schenectady. Union College students are meeting with U-Sustain at 11:30 at Old Chapel to walk to the rally together. Participating in this rally will send a message to our local officials that they need to prioritize sustainability and environmental justice in their policies. 

I implore everyone who cares about the environment to attend these events, both to be educated on the pressing issue of climate change and to advocate for climate justice in our city. Locally, our city and college need to enforce policies to protect our ecosystem. We’ve seen the effects of negligence in climate policy on our community in the form of polluted drinking water due to old and damaged pipes, and polluted water in the Groot, to name a few instances.

On a global scale, the effects of climate disaster have destroyed many environments and continue to displace people. Emma Phillips, of the class of 2024, learned about some of the ways different nations around the world have been affected by climate change in her Environmentalism In Contemporary Art class last fall. In Ethiopia, for example, “people were displaced because of drought and flooding, and over 8 million people were food insecure in 2018 because of said drought,” says Phillips. “It’s not just small populations that are being affected, it’s all these big cities on the coast, and once it hits New York, we’re going to feel the effects of climate change.” 

A disaster of this scale demands the full attention of activists and policymakers worldwide in order to be solved. Every day that our governments continue to ignore the climate crisis, more people are endangered, and an effective way to force our elected officials to pay attention is to protest. Attending Saturday’s march is a great way to advocate for climate justice peacefully and assertively. 

From the beginning, Earth Day depended on the activism of college students across the country. The first Earth Day was established on April 22, 1970, by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Inspired by student protests against the Vietnam war, Nelson organized a teach-in on college campuses with congressman Pete McCloskey and activist Denis Hayes. According to, 20 million people joined protests for the first Earth Day, organized by thousands of colleges and universities across the United States. The date April 22nd was specifically chosen because it falls between spring break and finals on most college campuses, for the purpose of maximizing the ability of college students to participate. 

52 years ago, Earth Day was created specifically for people like us to make our voices heard. In 2022, our planet remains in a state of crisis, and this Saturday’s Schenectady March for Climate presents an opportunity for us to demand that our government works to reverse the damage that has been done to our planet. I hope that everyone who is available on Friday and Saturday can attend these events, because climate change affects everyone, and the climate justice movement needs all the support it can get.