Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a rare appearance at DePaul Friday as he urged students to become involved and conscious of environmental issues surrounding climate change, encouraging them to become active members in the sustainability movement at a student-held event.
Know Tomorrow, a student-driven national climate change awareness campaign, hosted a Day of Action event at DePaul’s Lincoln Park student center where Emanuel made the appearance.
According to Know Tomorrow, Oct. 2 marks as the National Day of Action for college campuses to voice their concerns over climate change.
Emanuel also spoke of his legislative efforts as mayor to improve Chicago’s sustainability, but his main message was for students to take action.
“Challenge each other to greater political and community activism, to be involved in a very important topic that will determine how we live our lives in the future and the good news and I say this as a father with three children … you are much more environmentally aware than my generation,” Emanuel said in his speech.“You are a lot more active and socially conscious and your ability to communicate to each other is light years ahead where we were when I was going to school. Take that and use it to the advantage to make a difference in the world you and your children are going to inherent.”
DePaul senior Kenzie Verheyen served as the student coordinator of DePaul’s Day of Action campaign event and as the liaison between the Know Tomorrow campaign and DePaul.
“We’re trying to drive climate change and how millennials can act upon that,” Verheyen said. “This is a generational issue, and we really can be the answer to climate change in our generation.”
Verheyen said she hopes that by bringing Know Tomorrow on campus, students will become more aware and join their mission.
Director of Community Relations Fran Casey spoke of DePaul’s efforts to improve sustainability campus wide, including four LEED certified buildings on campus, as well as the creation of graduate programs in sustainable management and sustainable development.
“DePaul’s facility operations department has spent upwards of $50 million over the past five years in their efforts to maintain sustainability around on campus,” Casey said.
Casey noted that money was spent on resources like water bottle refill stations around campus, more sustainable dining operations and a “composting program that recycles up to 60 tons of organic material every single year.”
Verheyen said she hopes Emanuel’s mission for Chicago’s efforts to increase awareness will transfer over to DePaul’s campus as well.
“Rahm is a huge supporter of climate change and legislation towards it,” Verheyen said. “He’s created a lot of great legislation for Chicago and for sustainability so, for him to come out here, it just solidifies and represents that DePaul is moving in the right direction and he supports DePaul and the Know Tomorrow campaign. Together we can really make things happen.”
However, for some students, Mayor Emanuel’s prioritization of sustainability in Chicago should be less of a priority.
“I feel like him being here for climate change is a cover up for something else, I feel like he wants to do small good things to cover up the large bad things that he’s doing in the city,” DePaul senior Kiara Farmer said. “He’s closing up a bunch of public schools, and now he wants to go focus on climate change in order to be globally sustainable when he really should be focusing on the problems in Chicago.”
For DePaul freshman Rasa Willette, her involvement with Know Tomorrow stemmed from a desire for students to gain awareness and break common misconceptions about climate change.
“The world is beautiful and I want to keep it that way,” Willette said. “Climate change is so important to know about, there’s so many people who are unaware or think it’s not real, and I wanted to be part of campaign to raise awareness with youth in particular.
Students packed the event to hear from Mayor Emanuel and learn about initiatives.
“I hope to learn about global awareness,” DePaul junior Cassidy Wilson, who attended the event to learn more about sustainability, said. “There’s a lot of different groups here representing different global causes and environmental issues.”
Over 60 college campuses participate in the Day of Action including Loyola University Chicago and Northwestern University. Friday’s Day of Action featured health and environmental groups as well as an interactive photo booth and DJ.
In terms of what the outcome of the event could be, Verheyen said he wants students to take action.
“We want people to sign up for the campaign, people to become more versed by climate change and how they can change it by little action,” Verheyen said. “We are the generation that has to deal with it, so we are the generation that needs to act upon it and change it.”