BYU and U of U students breathe fresh air into climate change debate

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University of Utah students visit the BYU campus to join with BYU students in effort to raise awareness about climate change. (Colin Green)

Students from BYU and the University of Utah set aside their differences during rivalry week to team up in a new, purple revolution.

The cause of this unlikely unity is The Climate Campaign, a group whose slogan “United We Change” encourages all people to come together and make a difference in fighting pollution and climate change.

The most recent tactic was a surprise lighting event during halftime at the infamous BYU vs. Utah game on Sept. 9. Over 100 purple lights formed a giant “Y” just north of the traditional “Y.” Students involved with the campaign felt the game would provide the perfect setting for showing how people can put aside their differences.

“Hiking up and lighting the Y with both BYU and Utah students was amazing,” said BYU student and campaign director Nick Huey. “Seeing how easy it was to bring together our group really shows how we can work together in talking about things like climate change.”

Huey said the goal of the campaign is different from other climate groups. Rather than telling people to turn off their lights and drive gas efficient cars, their message is to create an environment where state leaders can pass climate-friendly legislation without fear of being voted out of office.

Climate change is often a hot debate with pointed opinions on both sides. These students hope to ease the tension and create a unified state where leaders can really make a difference.

The Climate Campaign
Members of The Climate Campaign climb past the Y to create a huge purple Y of their own. (Lauren Holbrook)

“Scientists have said that climate change is real. They’re qualified to make that call, but for some reason we’re still stuck debating whether or not it’s real,” Huey said. “If we’re stuck debating whether or not climate change even exists, then we’ll never get around to finding a solution to the problem.”

Members of the scientific community agree.

“The reality of climate change is not a scientific debate, it is a political debate,” said Sam St. Clair, BYU associate professor of plant and wildlife sciences. “There is clear consensus in the scientific community that it is happening.”

Huey said the main goal of the campaign is to build awareness of climate change. He said many politicians are unable to discuss climate change, let alone make laws to help remedy the problem. Huey has spoken with political leaders who won’t even say the words “climate change” because discussions about the issue are simply too polarized, and taking a side could ruin their reputation.

“We teamed up with the U to depoliticize the issue. If BYU and the U of U can team up, then anyone can team up. This can’t be seen as a party issue when it’s a people issue,” Huey said.

Group public relations manager Lauren Holbrook said when a new political debate arises, people tend to jump to one side or the other and refuse to budge after making a decision. This issue is too vital for people to spend time being stubborn, according to Holbrook.

“It’s a really important issue,” Holbrook said. “It’s the health of the planet we live on. It’s really important that we take care of it.”

The group’s previous activities included BYU students placing purple flowers on U of U cars, and Utah students visiting BYU with a football helmet painted with the slogan “United We Change.”

Holbrook said the friendly visits of these rival schools to each others’ campuses during the intense “holy war” rivalry week have shown the possibility of setting aside differences to come together for a greater cause.

For more information about the group’s efforts, students can visit the campaign website. The group encourages members to participate in their events and hopes their influence can spread until Utah becomes a safe place to discuss climate change.

The Climate Campaign is run entirely by students from the U of U and BYU. The group is a nonprofit organization and is not an official club of either school.

“We’re all about fresh air, and we hope to breathe some fresh air into this debate,” Huey said.

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