On Sunday, Feb. 17 eight Geneseo students traveled to Washington, D.C. to be a part of the Forward on Climate rally. This rally was designed to pressure President Barack Obama to focus on combating climate change.
The rally focused on showcasing negative effects of the Keystone XL pipeline and aimed to persuade Obama to vote against the creation of this tar sands pipeline.
Approximately 40,000 people were in attendance in D.C. and many cities across the country hosted marches in solidarity for individuals unable to make it to the capital.
Junior Jennifer Benson and sophomore Jessica Kroenert were two of the Geneseo students to attend the rally.
According to Kroenert, “We went to a similar rally in D.C. last year with a group in Rochester. It is a big event organized by 350.org so it was really well advertised.”
350.org is an environmental group aimed at decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to 350 parts per million. According to 350.org’s website, the organization is “building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis and push for policies that will put the world on track to get to 350 ppm.”
In addition to pressuring Obama to focus on combating climate change during his second term, this rally focused on displaying an active presence of people who care about this issue.
“This is important especially after the State of the Union address, where President Obama discussed the importance of the current issues about climate change, so we wanted to show that we were listening,” Benson said.
Attendees from New York took their activism a step further by focusing on an issue closer to home. According to Benson and Kroenert, approximately 500 to 1,000 people from New York converged in front of the World War II Memorial, where the group posed for a photograph to be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. This picture was intended to keep the pressure on Cuomo concerning the issues of hydrofracking and climate change.
“There have been countless actions directed towards [Cuomo] that occurred in New York over past years, but since there was such an impressive turnout of New Yorkers at the Forward on Climate rally, and we all had to travel a significant distance to get there, it was a powerful statement to send [Cuomo] that these hundreds of New Yorkers travelled to D.C. to show that they are passionate and demand change and action,” Kroenert said.
Kroenert said that she felt it was important to participate in the Forward on Climate rally because of what she said is potential future impact from current decisions.
“The climate and environment is the most important thing we as young people can get involved in,” Kroenert said. “It connects to our future and our children’s future, and it affects us more than it affects the generations before us.”
Both Benson and Kroenert said that the rally was a rewarding experience.
“It was really good to be unified because we’re all usually in separate places and don’t normally work together on projects so it was good to see there’s a huge environmental community pushing for the same things we are,” Benson said.
“It was very inspirational, especially getting together with everyone from New York to take the picture,” Kroenert said. “I think there are a lot of important decisions coming up in the near future, so this is a crucial moment to get involved.”