‘One person can make a difference’

CHR04092014A01c Colby Patterson
Tim DeChristopher speaks as part of ASUU’s Earth Week Tuesday in the Union Saltair room. Photo by Chris Samuels.

Tim DeChristopher speaks as part of ASUU’s Earth Week Tuesday in the Union Saltair room. Photo by Chris Samuels.

Tim DeChristopher has a message for U students: It’s too late to stop climate change.

“That doesn’t mean all is lost, and that doesn’t mean the world is going to end,” DeChristopher said. “It just means that maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.”

DeChristopher, a climate change activist and a U alumnus, spoke to about 75 students and community members on the future of climate movement on Tuesday. He said that although it is too late to reverse the path of climate change, there are still plenty of options for mitigation.

“This is going to be a long, sustained challenge that’s not going to go away,” he said. “That means that pretty much anything is on the table right now.”

DeChristopher emphasized the climate movement’s need to evolve to meet these new possibilities. He said the majority of current climate activism organizations are founded in a sense of momentary political urgency, rather than in long-term values and principles.

“We must be a movement of unreasonable morality,” DeChristopher said. “We must hold onto our values even when it seems unreasonable.”

These values include truth in two varieties — hard truths, or saying the things that are uncomfortable to say, and personal truths, which DeChristopher defined as, “staying true to your passion and the emotional source of your activism.”

Shaun Daniel, a graduate student in the environmental humanities program, said this emphasis on truth is what draws him to DeChristopher.

“I love that he’ll say what others are afraid to say,” Daniel said. “He’s right — we are too late to stop [climate change] from happening. So now … we need to focus on what kind of world we want to create. It’s frightening, liberating and exciting, all at the same time.”

DeChristopher said the climate movement would not survive without the leadership of students like Daniel. He said that while young people frequently get involved in the movement, it is often on “old people’s terms.” Youth are often not allowed to share their passion or leave the movement.

“We are smothering passionate people who want to burn,” he said. “We call it burnout, but they were never given the chance to be on fire.”

Despite these barriers, many young people at the U remain passionate about climate activism. Brittney Devey, a senior in environmental and sustainability studies, said she left the lecture with an even deeper commitment to activism and community involvement.

Monica Salas, a junior in health promotion and education who serves as ASUU’s assistant manager to speakers, hoped students would leave the event with exactly that reaction.

“I know this might sound cheesy, but I want students to understand that one person can make a difference,” said Salas, who was responsible for bringing DeChristopher to campus.

Salas said ASUU selected DeChristopher to speak for Earth Week at the U because of his inspiring story and his connection with the U as the graduate.
Anna Brady, a graduate student in the environmental humanities program, emphasized the importance of year-round activism.

“It’s not just limited to Earth Week,” Brady said. “[Climate change] happens every day of every year and is only increasing in intensity.”

a.oligschlaeger@chronicle.utah.edu

@allisonoctober