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How two students are doing their part to stop climate change

It is common for people to feel hopeless when it comes to combatting environmental issues. With evident signs of climate change plaguing the planet, it can be overwhelming for one person to feel like they are making a difference.

Maeve Fellerhoff, a sophomore studying studio art, said she has fallen into these feelings of helplessness when it comes to trying to save the environment.

“I think I definitely entered a phase where I was almost feeling like I was giving up a little bit, or just feeling like I couldn’t have an impact, and I wasn’t feeling like there were many things available to me where I felt like I actually had the chance of changing it,” Fellerhoff said.

She said she has always felt drawn to the environment and is conscious of how to be a good resident of the planet.

“I have definitely grown up with the generation where we’ve been very aware of climate change my whole life,” Fellerhoff said. “‘I’m an outdoors person, but I also care about the world a lot.”

Eventually, she came to the conclusion that complacency with no results was worse than action with no results. With this mentality at the forefront of her mindset, she sought out ways to take action that could possibly produce more immediate outcomes.

“I felt like the feeling of not doing anything was worse than the feeling of actually doing something and feeling like it’s going nowhere,” Fellerhoff said. “So, I just wanted to start something to feel like I had some little impact.”

Celia Hawk, a sophomore studying environmental studies, shared this sentiment, and the two discussed possible routes they could take to accomplish these mutual goals. The pair decided that starting a student organization at Ohio University would be the best choice for creating a forum for environmental politics.

“We were hiking around and talking about all the different environmental clubs we are in, and we just realized that none of them were very political and that we were lacking that aspect of feeling involved in the political movement,” Hawk said. 

Fellerhoff is candid about the fact that she feels like a stronger approach to creating environmental change is needed on campus. While she doesn’t want to bash the other student organizations for the work they do, a political organization that can spark real change was what she was looking for. 

“I feel like a lot of the clubs take a softer approach,” Fellerhoff said. “It’s a lot of (things) like recycling and all after-the-fact things, which are great and necessary, but I feel like when I do those things repeatedly, they feel very futile. I just felt the need to feel like I actually have a chance of changing something.”

Because of this, the pair settled on creating a chapter of the Sunrise Movement at OU. The Sunrise Movement is an organization dedicated to creating a movement of young people to help stop the climate crisis and win a Green New Deal, according to its website. 

There are “Sunrise Hubs” all over the nation, with the closest to Athens being the Sunrise Movement Columbus. The campaign works to make climate change an urgent priority for Central Ohio as well as end the influence of fossil fuel executives on Ohio politics. 

In addition to having Sunrise Hubs in cities, there are also chapters of the campaign at universities. Case Western Reserve University is home to its own chapter of the Sunrise Movement. 

Fellerhoff said the Sunrise Movement was compelling due to the fact that it provided welcomed support as well as guidance when it comes to tackling environmental political activism. 

“I know for me, I needed some pathway to not feel like I was doing this alone,” she said. “They had a framework laid out … I think it just was the most appealing support system with it.”

Hawk said she likes the organization because there is evidence of real change. 

“It’s a good way to feel like you’re causing real change and to get connected with people,” Hawk said.

Right now, the organization is just in the process of getting started at OU, but there is an Instagram for the new chapter. Fellerhoff and Hawk will be the co-presidents, and they both said they are excited to get started.

There are potential plans to host a community fest in early October to spread awareness and drum up support for the movement. The co-presidents said everything will be updated on their Instagram, and they encouraged all interested parties to reach out.

They encourage everyone to ask themselves what the environment means to them, and what they can do to help it.

“Not doing anything was affecting me more than doing something,” Fellerhoff said.


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