Rallying Against Climate Change

26 Feb

“Don’t be a chump.” These were the words Van Jones, a senior policy adviser at Green for All and Obama’s former Special Adviser for Green Jobs, declared on February 17, 2013 at the Stand Up for Climate Change Rally in Washington D.C. By the end of his speech, he had everyone chanting this mantra, which had the simultaneous effect of making me smile as well as conjuring up a steely resolve to stand up to climate change.

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The Smith College Green Team, with the leadership of Siiri Bigalki ’15, was able to fund and charter a bus that carried nearly fifty Smithies overnight to rally against climate change. It was not an easy trip, but we could not sit idly by and watch as others stepped out of their comfort zone to effect change. Leaving Northampton at 10:30 pm, we had to pack for overnight travel, sleep in cramped seats, and eat whatever we could carry, braving hours of frigid temperatures as we prepared to march on the nation’s capital. It was the least we could do to make our mark and represent Smith College in this peaceful demonstration. An estimated 40,000 people from all over the country joined the march on the National Mall in Washington D.C. It was by far the largest and most energetic rally for action against climate change yet.  The idea was to make Barack Obama take notice of the environmental concerns that accompany the continued extraction of fossil fuels with the specific goal of rejecting the further development of the Keystone XL Pipeline. It was not meant to be a demonstration of civil disobedience but rather a plea to our nation’s leaders to stand up to the status quo.

As one of more than two hundred and fifty colleges that attended the rally from all over the country, Smith College was invited to a youth gathering at the W Hotel blocks away from the White House. We met in the “great room” of the hotel to get energized and share information about each of our school’s environmental work. Smith’s Green Team members met with other like-minded individuals to confer about their fossil fuel divestment campaigns, and other topics like local solutions to global problems, how to keep the movement going into the summer and the most effective ways to take action now. The energy was contagious and, even though we had slept poorly on the bus the night before, we got caught up in the lively intensity created by the other rowdy college students.

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Celebrity speakers at the rally included Rosario Dawson (Sin City), Evangeline Lily (Lost), Nolan Gould (Modern Family), as well as Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation and Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nations. Some of their standout comments were memorable and I couldn’t help but jot them down. Bill McKibben stated that “we [the activists] are the antibodies that the earth is using to fight its fever.” That was on the heels of the comment from the Cree Nation saying that “we cannot eat money and we cannot drink oil.” In essence we have to look beyond profits and death and stand up for what is going to be healthy for the earth going forward. I was proud to stand up for my country, my college and my future. Although I have to come to terms with the fact that this rally might not yield the results I am looking for, I know that I at least stood up for the planet in the face of climate uncertainty.

-Liz Wright, AC

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