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UPUA President Zach McKay Calls On Penn State To Fight Climate Change

University Park Undergraduate Association President Zach McKay gave a virtual speech Saturday evening addressing in recognition of the International Day of Climate Action.

In a video address posted to UPUA’s YouTube channel, McKay called on Penn State to take action against climate change and environmental injustices.

In his speech, McKay discussed the urgency of working to combat these issues amid a global pandemic and heightened times of racial injustice.

“It is in times like this that each of us, you and I included, must understand the significance of these issues,” McKay said. “As a country, as a union, as a university community – these problems tear at the very fabric of our society. If they persist, we cannot attain a just and sustainable future for our generation or the next. These are not partisan issues.”

McKay spoke about how the coronavirus has unjustly affected communities of color, elaborating on how specifically Black, indigenous, and Latinx communities are more likely to die from the virus than white communities. Similarly, he spoke about how Black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police.

“Inaction on climate change will not manifest any differently — it will and already has disproportionately hurt those who are already historically marginalized and underserved,” McKay said. “It will ravage our most vulnerable communities.”

McKay noted that although the university has committed to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals and to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, these efforts are not enough.

The Penn State Climate Action Coalition has worked to solve and discuss these issues. In his speech, McKay shared news of a petition that has gathered nearly 1,000 signatures from members of the Penn State community.

The petition calls on Penn State administrators to address its inaction for issues related to climate action. The petition more specifically asks the university to incorporate sustainability education into existing curriculum, create a Climate Action Committee, and ensure the rapid reduction of greenhouse gases, among others.

“I recognize that Penn State’s administration can champion these efforts, though it cannot bring all of these changes about on its own,” McKay said. “These changes instead will require effort and commitment from all of us – from the Board of Trustees, from the Faculty Senate, from our Student Fee Boards, from our student governments, and perhaps most importantly, from the student bodies of each of our university’s campuses.”

You can sign the petition here and find more information about these issues on the Penn State Climate Action website.

“When all is said and done, neither a society — nor a university — can remain decent if it witnesses systemic oppression and suffering, and fails to rise to the occasion and act,” McKay said.

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About the Author

Ryen Gailey

Ryen is a junior early childhood education major from "right outside of Philly" - or in exact words, from 23.0 miles outside of Philly. She loves all things Penn State and has been a huge Penn State gal since before she could walk. Send her pictures of puppies, or hate mail at [email protected]


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