Why a teach-in?


Illustration by Genevieve Humphreys

Co-written by Richard Reed, David Spener, Judith Norman, Alfred Montoya and Greg Hazleton

“It is worse, much worse, than you think.”

So begins the bestselling recent book about climate change, The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells. Wallace-Wells isn’t alone in heralding dire times ahead. Indeed, results from the normally staid Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are bound in a book titled Dire Predictions.

With the science clear that these predictions may very well be accurate, young people around the globe have organized to strike on Sept. 20 and 27. The strikes are inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who began substituting her Fridays in school with protests outside the Swedish parliament. Last month, she sailed across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions sailboat to bring her activism to the U.S. The U.N. will hold an emergency climate summit in New York on Sept. 23, so the two days of strikes will provide needed bookends emphasizing what Thunberg told NPR is our “moral responsibility” to act quickly to quell the emerging crisis.

In solidarity with Thunberg and all those inspired to strike, we are organizing a “teach-in” on Sept. 20, 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. in the Coates Student Center.

The concept of a teach-in recalls the first Earth Day in 1970. It was organized in large part by the former Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson saw the energy infusing teach-ins during anti-Vietnam War protests on college campuses around the country. In his vision, that energy could be directed toward environmental political action. A teach-in involves collective action in which students participating in a movement for social change step out of the classroom to teach each other, with or without the guidance of their professors, about critical issues confronting them. Think of the sit-ins that African American civil rights activists carried out in the U.S. South in the 1950s and 1960s and add the element of reflection and learning. That’s what a teach-in is.

In that spirit and with the urgency we feel necessary to address climate change, we invite the Trinity and larger San Antonio communities to gather and chart the way forward.

But why a teach-in?

Strikes are an important form of political action, to be sure. In organizing this teach-in, our hope is to provide support for all those taking action — through strikes or other means — on Friday. The teach-in also provides a forum for us all to learn from each other.

Participants will bring a broad range of perspectives to the event. Scientists will discuss the physical causes and effects of the changing climate. Anthropologists and sociologists will detail the threats to human relationships and equity. And activists will outline possibilities for strategic political action.

Just as important, our climate emergency can be the cause for distress, isolation, and despondency. A teach-in provides an important venue to recognize the power of knowledge, action and the celebration of all existence through music, poetry and artwork.

We envision a crowd that walks out into the community with determination and the hope that comes with collective resolve, rather than one that walks away with a feeling of powerlessness and the indifference that comes with isolated despair.

and all those striking on Friday demand action from those in power. We do, as well. We hope that with this teach-in we can fortify our collective conscience and educate each other about what the crisis is and how we can address it with honesty. In solidarity, we will combat the cynical politics thwarting action on climate change. With collective resolve, we will also move forward in the spirit of hope,
knowing that there are many things we still can do to minimize rising global temperatures and mitigate their impact on the living things that inhabit our planet.