By Maddie Zins
Staff Columnist

Activism—whether it be through large scale efforts in conjunction with national organizations or small school wide fundraisers sponsored by a club—is a force central to the life of many a college student (when we can muster up time to do it) and to the growth of environmental conservation.

This weekend I planned to attend the Sierra Club’s Forward on Climate Rally in D.C., but found my busy schedule did not allow it. I was incensed by conflicting activities’ hindrance on my ability to speak out for the earth; still, I feel I can play some part by telling others of the environmentalists’ plights for planetary sustainability that occurred last Sunday.

On Feb 17, 50,000 members of the Sierra Club held their Forward on Climate Rally at the Washington Monument along with the support of thousands of grassroots rallies and over a million online advocates who could not be in attendance. This peaceful protest was intended to move politicians, with their specific audience being President Barack Obama, to action on climate change by protesting against the Keystone Pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline, if implemented, will be a way of relaying dirty tar sands crude from Canada to refineries in our Gulf Coast. In plainer terms, it is a big pipe that will bring crude oil to the United States in great abundance. Members of the Sierra Club say that if it is created it will “produce as much carbon pollution as seven new coal-fired power plants — or another 5.5 million new cars on the road every year…tar sands development will mean ‘game over’ for the climate.”

If you’ve been following President Obama’s recent speeches very closely, you know that he has not failed to mention climate change or his intentions to make policy in regards to it. So, if President Obama supports efforts to delay climate change, why have the rally, right? The Sierra Club’s reasoning stems from Obama’s failure to make serious strides in conservation during his first term in office despite the promise held by environmentalists of him being a “green” president.

So the Sierra Club chose to take action—they held what they believed to be “the largest climate rally in U.S. history.” The day of rallying through the freezing chills of February featured speeches from Michael Brune (Sierra Club executive director who was arrested the day before the rally), Bill McKibben, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Van Jones, Maria T. Cardona, Chief Jacqueline Thomas, The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, and Crystal Lameman. After having gathered and listened to the above speakers, protestors marched to the White House with posters in hand, raucous chants in the air, and high hopes in their hearts. Following the demonstration Sierra Club members and supporters celebrated with a closing concert featuring Eve.

Many who attended the rally were college students and young adults not unlike you or me. A substantial portion of groups like the Sierra Club is made up of twenty-something year olds—they join up with such sectors to promote action that furthers our planet’s flourishing development and to awaken the public to those behaviors that hinder it. Generally, young adulthood is humankind’s first realization of our ability to seize opportunities where we can lend speech to our passions and make substantial differences in society. So college students are target sponsors of events like the Forward on Climate Rally, or even smaller scale action that can make a large impact.

My point in writing on this protest is not to convince readers to disagree with the construction of the pipeline. Rather, it is to bring to light the significance of activism for college students. Our country is holding its breath and waiting for President Obama’s reaction to this event that so many young adults, not unlike the students here, at Washington College, helped to make possible. Apathy does not have to be the color of our generation and its gray hue is slowly being colored in by activists such as those in attendance at last weekend’s rally.

If you aren’t already involved in some sort of effort to promote environmental prosperity, or do other kinds of service to our planet and its beautiful inhabitants, I hope reading this encourages you to get involved in some manner. This is the only Earth we have; activism, no matter the size, is one of the great steps we can take to keep it.

The Elm

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