Eight Niagara University students participated in a climate change awareness rally in Buffalo that was held last Friday in conjunction with Pope Francis’ speech to Congress on the topic.

The “Rally at Niagara Square” was organized by the Sierra Club Niagara Group, a grassroots environmental organization that represents Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

Participating Niagara University students were Ashley Morris, Stephanie Vargas, Kelsey Ruszkowski, Maine Walker, Griffin Gansworth, Amara Schultz, Addrienne Webb and Angela Kendt. Most of the students are involved with the NU Goes Green club on campus, which is advised by Dr. Mark Gallo, professor of biology.

Transportation to the event was funded by the university’s sustainability committee.

Many of the students from Dr. David Reilly’s course on environmental policy attended the rally as part of the class, which challenges participants to connect their studies to community engagement. The students are researching topics that range from brownfields and corporate responsibility to Love Canal, hydrofracturing, global climate change and local solutions to environmental justice.

In Laudato Si’, an encyclical Pope Francis published in June, he stated, “We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” His Holiness reiterated that message directly to President Barack Obama and the American people during his address yesterday in Washington, D.C.

Niagara, which offers a major in environmental studies, has been lauded numerous times for its dedication to sustainability. It is annually featured in The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges and its B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification – Gold Rating from the United States Green Building Council.

In 2012, NU signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which formalizes the university’s plan to eliminate the campus’ net emissions of greenhouse gases. Since one component of the effort is education, NU has incorporated a sustainability unit into its freshman seminar, Niagara University Beginnings.

To learn more about Niagara University’s sustainability initiatives, please visit www.niagara.edu/green.

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