On a Thursday evening when the clock is nearing 8 p.m., Andrew Melian and his girlfriend Autumn Ehlinger stand examining the artwork on the walls of UW-Milwaukee’s Mitchell Hall. They are awaiting any participants in a discussion Melian has organized to discuss what he views as one of society’s most daunting pandemics: climate change.
Melian is a graphic design major at UWM and says he has been frustrated for years now, as society has watched CO2 levels rise, coral reefs die, and ice caps melt, yet hardly anything has been done. Therefore, he organized this talk to see if there are others similarly distressed. He hopes to find other students and create an organization that can fight such global pollution and climate change.
Melian has prepared a speech of sorts to begin the gathering, however he says he has no clue as to where the night could take him. Depending on the turnout, which he says could vary from three to 30, he may end up merely giving his prepared speech and ending the evening there, or having a lengthy discussion regarding climate change. By the time eight p.m. rolls around, three others had found their way to Mitchell 312 to hear what Melian has to say.
“Sustainability is in all of us; it’s whether or not you’ve been highly politicized or highly charged to the opposition. But it’s within you,” Melian says.
He continues to give his two cents on everything from climate change to sustainability and the parts that the government, companies, and civilians play therein. He says that he views these three entities as a sandwich, with people on the top, companies in the middle, and government at the bottom. With this diagram in mind, the change that the population makes will affect the layers below, and it is up to the people to make changes and convince companies and government to do the same.
After Melian finishes what he had prepared for the event, his monologue shifts to dialogue as the four others present offer their thoughts in response to his ideas. All members of the group cite big government and corporate monopoly as main concerns to the development of green standards in society.
“The only way we’re going to solve environmental issues is if we solve the corruption and money in politics,” said Forrest Morrisey, a student present at the event.
Nick Reeds, a political science student, also voiced his opinion, saying that small numbers of people, citing the Koch brothers for instance, own too much in businesses and often overlook environmental issues such as pollution, waste, and sustainability to focus pursuits on expanding or streamlining to make more money.
The thoughts and opinions offered thus far, although insightful, remain based in opinion. Little research or experience has been cited with regard to environmental activism. However, Mckayla Sabastian now takes a turn speaking and reveals that she has spent years working with various environmental groups and leadership and organization committees. She agrees that corporations and government have too much money with little regard to the global climate. She also says that there are groups at all UW system schools discussing the same concerns. The issue comes in organization of action.
The hardest part of getting one’s voice heard is the organization, according to Sabastian. She says that protests, demonstrations, or even getting a politician or company’s attention requires intense organization that many people do not have the time for.
In the final minutes of the meeting, it is agreed that all members want to act to deter climate change and attempt to bring higher environmental standards to companies. The members also agree that a decision on how to act is a process not formulated in one day, so weekly meetings shall be held to discuss ideas and work on connecting with other groups with similar goals. These meetings are to be held at 8 p.m. each Thursday in Lapham Hall, room S274. All those interested in discussing environmental change or merely interested in listening are welcome to join.