Climate Crisis

Brown University Students Take Bus to D.C. to Protest COP27


Brown University students Lizzy Duke-Moe, left, and Marcello Rudofsky, second from left, protest with other Sunrise Brown members in Washington, D.C. (Kaiden Yu)

While the latest climate discussion unfolded in Egypt at COP27 last weekend, a Rhode Island group rallied at the U.S. Capitol to protest the meeting of world leaders and the annual forum.

Although group members were protesting the global climate conference, they did not decry the validity of climate change — instead, members of Sunrise Brown, an environmental justice-focused student group at Brown University, bused to Washington, D.C., from Providence to do the opposite and plead with the international community to do more.

“COP is one of the most performative actions that happens in the activist hub,” said Lizzy Duke-Moe, a first-year student at Brown University and one of the protest’s organizers. “It just is crazy that there’s so much media that goes to every COP every year and, you know, nothing comes out of it.”

Duke-Moe said she had spoken to some other environmental activists she’d met this summer and they agreed that “it was unacceptable if the United States didn’t have a protest in D.C.” while COP27 was happening in Egypt. Other groups were protesting it for the Earth Guardians’ global day of action, so they had to put something together, she said.

More than a dozen members of Sunrise Brown, some who had never been to D.C. or to a protest, met Nov. 12 with other local and national environment groups in front of the Lincoln Memorial to march to the Capitol.

Sunrise Brown is the local Brown University chapter of the national Sunrise Movement, which advocates climate justice policies and has hundreds of local hubs around the country. The local group recently relaunched on Brown’s campus after a two-year hiatus and has already disrupted an ExxonMobil student recruitment event and demanded the university’s new provost commit to an environmental pledge, according to The Brown Daily Herald.

Despite the grave cause, the march contained a lot of joy, Duke-Moe said, with chanting, singing, handholding, and some laughing.

“We’re in an age where there’s a lot of environmental ‘doomism,’ a lot of people are feeling very burnt out, very hopeless about the situation,” she said. “So, to see young people who were so hopeful, kind of served as a reminder that what we’re doing is still very popular, it’s still necessary.”

Although the protest focused on how young people can and should be included in the fight to prevent and equitably mitigate climate change — the youngest speaker was a sixth-grader — there were also lifelong activists, including members of Veterans for Peace.

Isabella Garo, a junior at Brown and another event organizer and Sunrise member, said the protest was a “reminder to all of us that we all are very powerful, and that as we work together into the future, we can continue to be even more powerful together.”

Garo’s biggest criticism of the conference of the parties (COP) meetings is the lack of action and accountability. She said few policy changes have come out of the last 26 meetings, and even the progress of the Paris Climate Accords in 2015 was erased in one presidency.

“We wanted to make sure that our government knew that young people are fighting for these things,” Garo said. “We are going to hold them accountable whether they like it or not.”

Colleen Cronin is a Report for America corps member who writes about environmental issues in rural Rhode Island for ecoRI News.


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