Environmentalist Wendy Abrams (Kellogg ‘90) started the national organization “Know Tomorrow” with the hope of bringing millennials into the conversation about climate change.
Today, Know Tomorrow is a nonprofit campaign active in 60 college campuses across the nation. Northwestern joined the other 59 schools Friday as part of the national nonprofit’s day of action to raise climate change awareness.
“We want to start the year on the right foot of giving students an awareness about environmental and climate change issues,” Christina Cilento, a SESP junior and one of the organizers of Friday’s National Day of Action, said.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston, and Henry Henderson, director of the National Resources Defense Council’s Midwest chapter, who both spoke at the event, have agreed to work with the student leaders throughout the year, Cilento said.
Abrams decided Oct. 2 should be the National Day of Action and created the event, which was run mainly through student-led campaigns in colleges across the nation.
“(Millennials) care about what’s happening in the environment, but the campuses aren’t particularly active,” said Jim Abrams, Wendy Abrams’ husband. “There aren’t protests going on on campus like there were in the 60s. But it’s (the millennial) generation that will be the first generation that’s truly impacted by climate change.”
The Friday event was organized by three students involved in different environmental groups on campus, such as Fossil Free NU, Engineers for a Sustainable World and IIRON Student Network. Cilento worked alongside Communication senior Kate Gladstone, SESP senior Zane Waxman and graduate student Alex Ardagh.
Even without a formal student group to back the event, Cilento said the members of the organizing team consider the Oct. 2 event not as the culmination of their work but as a kickoff to a series of events that could lead to a stronger campus-wide movement.
“Because there’s no one group that has total ownership over it, it’s kind of a collaboration, or a coalition, of groups that are sponsoring it and so there have been a bunch of groups that were promoting it and turning out attendees,” Cilento said.
Know Tomorrow also offered students food from its national sponsors and the chance to add their names to petitions encouraging strong international action on climate change going into the UN’s conference in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11. Thirty-six people signed the petition at the event.
“Our thought is that if we have this huge display of student support across the nation, that’ll kind of put pressure on political leaders,” Cilento said.
Gladstone said that she was happy with the event turnout considering the weather, but that she hopes to see the issue of climate change go beyond “just a conversation” on campus.
“What I would like to see is more action,” Gladstone said. “I want to see people getting angry and channeling that anger in a really productive way.”
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Email: [email protected]