Student Activists Demand Climate Action during COP26

By Reuben Sam 

BERKELEY, CA – On November 10, 2021, students gathered on the steps of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall, demanding immediate action to mitigate the impacts of climate change and transition toward a green-based economy. 

The rally—and hundreds of other international demonstrations on “Call to Earth Day”—occurred amid the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, otherwise known as “COP26.”  Over the past two weeks, global leaders have gathered to explore solutions to combat climate change as the world continues to warm at an unprecedented rate. 

Rowen Kliethermes, one of the organizers of the UC Berkeley demonstration, noted that, while the summit is a step in the right direction, many global powers have yet to adequately address consumerism and large corporations’ reliance on fossil fuels, some of the root causes of global warming. 

COP26 culminated on November 13, 2021 with the Glasgow Pact, a historic agreement explicitly mentioning the need to “phase down” coal among the international community. However, the pact has received mixed reactions from observers.  Critics of the agreement argue that the language used in the document and the negotiations does not go far enough to minimize the catastrophic effects of global warming in a reasonable timeframe. Demonstrations such as UC Berkeley’s exemplify public support for increased action regarding climate change.  

The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), a student-run grassroots organization focused on environmental activism, organized the rally at Berkeley. According to their figures, around 70 students attended the event. The crowd was fully receptive to the speakers’ remarks, remaining energetic throughout the rally and chanting slogans.

The first speaker at the event was CALPIRG’s Renewable Campaign Grassroots Coordinator, Jose Luongo, who called for immediate action from policymakers in the continued fight against the devastating impacts of global warming. “Especially in California, we have seen more record-breaking wildfires each year,” Luongo said in reference to pursuing more assertive climate policy. In recent years, California’s spate of worsening fires has been linked to the effects of climate change.

The next speaker at the event was Professor David Romps, who explained the scientific consensus on the negative externalities of global warming and the university’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. 

“That [plant] right next to Eucalyptus Grove is putting out 3 tons of carbon dioxide every year for every student, every undergraduate student on campus,” Romps stated in regards to the Cogeneration Plant owned by the university. Professor Romps remarked how the university could move to “electrify our campus” to reduce UC Berkeley’s reliance on fossil fuels. 

Finally, environmental activists Jakob Evan and Varsha Madapoosi took the podium. They explained how the university had made nothing but empty promises in enacting meaningful changes to their climate policy directives. “UC Berkeley has no real plan. They are basically just greenwashing,” said Madapoosi. Amidst drastically underpaid lecturers and plans to build on People’s Park, Madapoosi’s statement supports many students’ views of UC Berkeley as an institution purporting to be on the frontier of social justice activism, but reluctant to engage in tangible action.

According to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), the measures that arose out of COP26 remain well over the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping the temperature under 1.5 ºC. Despite these bleak numbers, many climate activists—including Berkeley students—have yet to lose hope.

About The Author

Reuben Sam is a writer for The Vanguard's Social Justice news desk. Originally from Los Angeles, CA, he is currently studying Political Science at UC Berkeley.

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  1. Alan Miller

    Really we need to adapt – as I’ve said before the damage has been done.  Two centuries of industrialization.  And yes, we should clean up our power generation – China.  But what does ‘electrify our campus’ mean?  You gots to clean up the grid, and not do more environmental damage in the process, or put solar panels on the Greek Theater.  Really these protestors should give serious consideration to the observations and warnings of Bill Maher regarding the hypocrisy of the younger generation on this subject:

    New Rule: OK, Zoomer – Green Fakers

        1. Ron Oertel

          Let me know when the massive amount of electric energy that will be required is anywhere close to being “renewable”.

          Bill Maher had something to say about the energy required for BitCoin, in the video that Alan posted. He also had something to say about cell phones (and their impact).

          Not to mention the earth materials required for electronic devices, solar panels, etc. The impact that will have (e.g., mining), the amount of energy it takes to remove them from the earth, manufacture them, and recycle/dispose of them, etc.

        2. David Greenwald

          It’s not clear to me that renewable is the gold standard at this point.  For instance, 45 percent of VCE’s standard electricity package is renewable, but 75 percent is carbon free.  I’m not expert on this, but it seems the latter may be more important.

        3. Ron Oertel

          It’s not clear to me that renewable is the gold standard at this point.  For instance, 45 percent of VCE’s standard electricity package is renewable, but 75 percent is carbon free.  I’m not expert on this, but it seems the latter may be more important.

          I’m not an expert, either, nor would I weigh in what you claim (or its meaning).  There’s a guy on this blog who “plays one on TV, however”.  Haven’t seen him weigh-in on this, so far.

          Ultimately, it’s ultimately modern lifestyles which are inevitably impactful.  And, modern lifestyles are what’s enabling billions of people to live on this planet in the first place.

          “Save me, Elon Musk.  Take me with you to Mars. How much are you charging for that trip?” (Never mind – you and I will be dead, by that time.)

          At this point, I’m hoping that reincarnation doesn’t exist. Unless it involves Mars, or whatever planet they referred to on Star Trek.

        1. Alan Miller

          To be straight about that Bill Maher post, I thought it made some great points, but was also unfair in one respect:  it lumped the whole generation together.  What everyone needs to do is be honest about the impacts of their lifestyle on planet.  I seriously doubt that climate activists are the same people who follow the Kardashians.  However, there is a message in there that our lifestyles, even those who profess to do good and protest, are still full of atmosphere-harming practices, no matter who we are.  A bit of a glass-houses story.  I do know a few people who literally live off the grid – but they are the few.

        2. Ron Oertel

          “it lumped the whole generation together”.

          True, but if (some) claim that one generation (or another) is “better” (or worse) than some other generation, it’s always untrue. (Actually, it’s probably the media which states this, or encourages it.)

          I’ve never felt that I “represented” a generation, let alone a skin color or gender.  I doubt that anyone else feels that way, either.

  2. Bill Marshall

    it lumped the whole generation together.  

    Aka, “profiling”…

    What everyone needs to do is be honest about the impacts of their lifestyle on planet. 

    Or, even more locally… true story for both.

    Amen.  I agree and affirm.



  3. Bill Marshall

    For instance, 45 percent of VCE’s standard electricity package is renewable, but 75 percent is carbon free.  I’m not expert on this, but it seems the latter may be more important.

    You miss a good point that Ron O made earlier… goes to “total”:  mining materials, transporting them, manufacturing, constructing/installing, maintaining, operating “carbon-free” sources… if you did a “carbon audit” of the ‘whole thing’ (and I credit Ron O’s admission that he was in the ‘audit business’… don’t know how great he was, but he is definitely ‘on-track’, here), you might consider that what it takes to go “carbon-free”, really isn’t, as much as you might surmise.  Good ‘sound bite’, but you have to look at the total “carbon cost”… it is not simple.  It goes beyond “rocket science”

    And, ‘non-renewable’ means pretty much exactly that… it is not simple.

    Ron O made a good point, and ‘gets’ the full audit thing (am thinking)… don’t just look at the ‘end product’… that would be myopic, at best…

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