The Mississippi State University Climate Reality’s second annual climate march was held in Starkville on Friday with the stated goal of bringing recycling back to the Starkville city budget and demanding MSU rewrite their climate action plan, as well as make more recycling initiatives in dorm buildings.
The march began at 4 p.m in front of Lee Hall on the MSU campus, with student speakers giving speeches along the way. The march ended at Unity Park in downtown Starkville and culminated with three speeches from leaders in the community. The speakers in attendance were Lynn Spruill, mayor of Starkville; Joseph Witt, professor of religion and philosophy at MSU and Reverend Michael Malcolm, founder of a climate organization based in Alabama.
The march began around 4:15 p.m, with attendees marching around the Drill Field. From there, the procession came to a halt near Davis Wade Stadium, where multiple student speakers gave speeches.
Among those speaking was Mayukh Datta, president of the MSU Climate Reality Project and senior in chemical engineering, who spoke on assorted issues: the death of Breonna Taylor, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and his own experience growing up in Jones County.
Among the other MSU students giving speeches were Christiana McAtee, president of the MSU NAACP Collegiate Chapter; Georgie Swan, president of College Democrats at MSU; Tyler Melvin, co-founder of the Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter at MSU and Tyler Griffis, an officer in both the Students for a Sustainable Campus and the Climate Reality Project.
Each of these speakers emphasized the need to connect environmental justice with racial and social justice and emphasized how the climate crisis should not be a political issue.
After the speeches ended, the march started down University Avenue, flanked by police officers from Starkville and the MSU police department. They stated their presence was to ensure crucial intersections could be briefly closed while marchers crossed.
Signs were in almost every hand, some reading messages of peace. "Choose Eco, Not Ego," one said. "There is no Planet B," read another. During the trek to the destination, marchers chanted popular chants from previous marches. "The ocean is rising, and so are we," and "no more coal, no more oil, keep the carbon in the soil" were among those chanted on the way.
When the march reached its destination, the procession sat down and prepared to hear speeches. First up was Lynn Spruill, the Democratic mayor of Starkville. She spoke about being receptive to the demands and about not doing well with recycling in the past. She also claimed the city would be doing more in the way of going green, including building a new recycling plant, working with TVA to go green and building a new solar farm to produce 5% of our energy.
Mia Robertson, a junior in political science and member of the Student Association, was hopeful about what Spruill had to say.
"After hearing Lynn Spruill talk about how a lot of these things had not been brought to her attention, I think especially us making those demands is exactly the thing that we needed, just to bring it to their attention in the first place."
Next came a short speech from Joseph Witt, associate professor of philosophy and religion at MSU. Witt emphasized the need for political will, saying we have the policy and science behind us. Witt believes our hopes and dreams for the future are in the climate.
Attendees and organizers alike were ecstatic about the success of the march and were hopeful about events to come. Makayla Smith, a member of College Democrats and freshman in political science, believes the action needs to continue to the state level to have the most effect.
"I believe from here, we should go to a state level, ... we have a lot of influence for what happens in other cities and other counties," Smith said.
MSU Climate Reality Project Chapter Chair Datta is hopeful for the future and maintains the movement does not stop here.
"I would just like to say that the rally doesn’t stop here. It’s impossible for me to tell you that we were going to show up at Unity Park, and climate change will be fixed. It’s an ongoing process. We’re doing our part to make sure we reimagine a sustainable and equitable future," Datta said.
Kristen Killgore, the president of Students for a Sustainable Campus and a senior in civil engineering, was also hopeful for the present and the future and demanded action of the university.
"As students, we need to challenge our university to do better. Mississippi State needs to be a leader among this community," Killgore said. "This university is a very incredible institution and a leader in the nation in a number of ways, and so I think we need to start here, lead through action."