Green Action joins major rally on National Mall
The “Forward on Climate Rally,” organized by the Sierra Club, 350.org and various other environmental organizations with the purpose of being the largest environmental rally in United States history, attracted approximately 40,000 people to the National Mall.
“The main point of the rally is for us to call upon [Barack] Obama to take action on climate issues,” junior and President of Green Action Rachel Goldstein said. “He’s been saying he’s going to do it in various different speeches—at his inauguration, at the State of the Union address—and now this is us approaching him.”
The most immediate action the protesters demanded is the termination of construction plans for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Tar sand oil is the dirtiest form of crude oil and threatens the existence of several species should a spill occur.
A study commissioned by TransCanada Corporation, the company that plans to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, predicted that the pipeline’s construction would generate about 10,000 jobs, but researchers at Cornell University forecast that the project would actually cause job loss in the area in the long run. The researchers suggested that higher pollution levels could cause crop failure and higher fuel prices in the Midwest could slow consumer spending.
Protesters have varying aims of changes they hope the president will make.
“Everyone’s fighting for a lot of different environmental issues, but they all basically center around the idea of energy and how we can reduce our carbon footprint,” Goldstein said.
The protest included not only environmentalists but also politicians, environmental scientists and other professionals.
The rally kicked off with protesters gathering at 12 p.m. at the Washington Monument. Speakers such as Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, actress Evangeline Lilly and environmental activist Bill McKibben, the president of 350.org who spoke at the University in November, riled up the audience before it gathered into formation to march to the White House.
“We need to show people that we care about change and believe it needs to be now,” sophomore Bree Swenson said. “These are issues that are going to continue playing a huge role in the future, and [Obama] needs to know he has our support in making these changes.”
Sophomore Melanie Stern found the rally educational.
“I learned so much from this rally about how detrimental to the environment this pipeline would be and how much the Earth would change in as little as a few years from now if we don’t move past fossil fuels towards a more renewable source of energy,” she said. “It’s a really pressing issue and one that we should educate ourselves on. We need to start taking action in helping our environment, beginning with vetoing the pipeline.”
Members of the University’s Green Action attended a similar rally of 15,000 people last year protesting the development of the Keystone XL pipeline. As a result of the rally, construction was postponed for a year.
“The turnout was really great last year, and it was amazing this year to see how many more people are becoming involved in this movement,” sophomore Amy Fjerstad said. “The turnout this year was huge. Everyone was so passionate about the cause, and it was really empowering.”
While Green Action members were pleased with the outcome of the previous rally, they hope for more substantial results this year.
“I think after all the things that have happened in the last year, like [Hurricane] Sandy and crop failures, it’s so clear it’s time to take action,” Goldstein said. “It’s a major issue in the United States, and it’s something we can improve.”
Beyond just attending the rally to make a difference in the numbers, Goldstein believes participating in such an event is important.
“Rallies are very powerful, and just being there and feeling the sentiment is very exciting,” she said. “The vibe is very empowering, and you’re able to get more of a sense of what we’re fighting for and why we’re fighting for it.”