Chief Michael Vargas of Sacred Nations Cultural Center squinted into the sun before a crowd of sign-holding students, faculty and community members. Showalter Fountain flowed in the background, filling the pauses in his speech.
“You are the caretakers of the earth,” he said.
Vargas said we, as human beings, are the keepers, the custodians, the defenders of earth.
“Those in power’s time on this planet is less than yours,” he said, specifically addressing the students. “What are they doing with their time?”
He said the people in power are complacent, exploiting fossil fuels for monetary gain.
“Speak out,” he said. “Be responsible. Make some noise.”
Reinvest IU led the Hoosiers’ Climate March from the Sample Gates to Showalter Fountain on Wednesday evening. The organization’s goal is to persuade the IU Foundation to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in clean alternative energy.
At the ending rally of the march, Vargas was not the only person advocating for youth to stand up to those in power.
“We’re here to stand with our Native American brothers and sisters who didn’t have much of a choice but to stand up against the energy transfer company,” sophomore Students for a Democratic Society representative Stanley Njuguna said. “Let me hear you say stand up.”
“Stand up,” the crowd called back.
“Let me hear you say fight back,” Njuguna said.
IU junior and event organizer Kristen Billings said she came to both logistically support the march and fight for fossil fuel divestment.
“That’s the main goal,” she said. “Really, I think the consequences are not only for our future, but for all generations, all posterity. We’re just trying to combat environmental degradation and climate disruption.”
IU graduate student Traci Jordan said she came because she is native and involved with the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“These lovely people are connecting the groups because they are connected,” she said of Reinvest IU. “The divesting from fossil fuels is a key step into moving away from the sorts of things we see happening with all the pipelines, illegal infrastructure being dug on tree land, on sacred land.”
As Reinvest IU encouraged attendees to donate to the Standing Rock Sioux, Jordan brought a carload of items she had collected. Vargas said his personal friends would take the donations directly to North Dakota.
“Like many of you here today, I’m here because I’m fed all the way up,” Njuguna said. “The lack of progress isn’t just frustrating. It is incredibly dangerous. We simply cannot afford to drag our feet when we are on a freight train heading off the climate cliff at full throttle. It’s about time our leaders shift the conversation accordingly.”
Most in attendance looked hopefully to the future.
“Imagine what would happen if we take a stand and say, ‘You are not going to get away with this.’” IU graduate and Reinvest IU member Wes Cammenga said. “I suspect it would change everything.”
“We don’t need a crystal ball to tell us what’s going to happen,” Vargas said. “We know what’s going to happen.”
IU physics professor Ben Brabson said if students here do not mobilize, suffering will only continue after this August, the hottest month on record.
However, the rally at Showalter Fountain was not where marchers planned to end.
“Rallies are really fun social events,” Njuguna said. “You get to scream and shout and dance about things that you’re really passionate about, but at the end of the day, each and every one of us is going to go home.”
He said everyone must look at themselves in the mirror and ask difficult questions.
“We’re going to have to decide whether or not we’ve had enough,” he said. “We’re going to have to decide whether or not we’re ready to be the revolution. Hoosiers, are you ready to be the revolution?”
“Yes,” the crowd resounded.