The “Forward to Climate” rally was the largest environmental protest in American history
Last Sunday, more than 35,000 environmental activists went to Washington, D.C. to participate in what became the largest environmental protest in America’s history. Sixteen College of Wooster students were in attendance, having driven ten hours to make their voices heard in the “Forward on Climate” rally. The Wooster students made this whirlwind trip in just over a day. They left at 10 p.m. Saturday night and arrived back in Wooster in time for classes on Monday morning.
The participating students are primarily members of the Greenhouse Club, an environmental activist group on campus. Taylor Knoop ’16, newly-elected treasurer of the Greenhouse Club, helped organize the trip after hearing about the rally at a “Do the Math” seminar in Cleveland. The “Forward on Climate” rally strove to prevent the construction of the controversial Keystone Pipeline. The members of the Greenhouse Club were excited by the idea. Kelsey Schreck ’15, vice president of the Greenhouse Club, said that stopping the Keystone Pipeline “is a way to show that the American people won’t stand for environmental degradation anymore.”
Knoop worked with the Ohio Sierra Club to get students to D.C. by setting up a phone bank on campus. Students could make calls to Sierra Club members and convince them to attend the rally.
In exchange, the Ohio Sierra Club then helped to sponsor any student who participated in the phone bank by providing a scholarship covering the bus fee to D.C.
Upon arriving in D.C., the Wooster students went to a pre-rally gathering to make signs. At the rally itself, Knoop thought that the crowds vastly exceeded the Wooster contingent’s expectations.
The original goal was between 8,000 and 10,000 participants, “but at the rally the group just kept growing [to about 35,000 people]. I was totally blown away,” she said. The students started their rally experience by listening to several speakers, and then marched about two miles to surround the White House, chanting phrases like “This is what democracy looks like,” and “Hey Obama, we don’t want no climate drama.”
After years of governmental stalling on climate change, this rally was a chance for many who are concerned about the environment to tell their legislators how they feel.
“We are so lucky to live in this country, to have these rights available to us,” Knoop said. “I just turned 18 last May and being able to take part in our government’s legal system through voting and now through this protest has been really amazing.”
Caroline Kaman ’16 agreed, saying, “You felt like you were a part of a big movement. There was a lot of energy.”
These students, who were willing to sacrifice a weekend to the cause of improving environmental legislation, clearly feel strongly about changes that need to be made to protect the environment.
Cullen Dolson ’16, explaining why he chose to make the trip, said, “I grew up backpacking and hiking in Virginia and I would do anything to make sure that the beauty that I grew up with is there for generations to come.”
The enthusiasm of these students was reflected in the huge crowds that showed up to demand action by the government.
Dana Stamos ’16 said, “we were able to connect with people across the country who felt passionately about this issue.”
Knoop added that she was deeply moved by the number of people at the rally. “It was my first time at a rally and the energy was just amazing…It was amazing to see the range of people and it really speaks to the importance of attention to climate change,” she said.