Climate change rally seeks to educate and draw attention
University of Oregon students planned a walkout and rally on the afternoon of Jan. 23 to stand up against newly-elected President Donald Trump’s staunch climate change denial stance. The event, planned to stretch from 1 to 3 p.m., shut down about 30 minutes early.
Marley Griffiths, a UO freshman, heard about the event on Facebook but didn’t leave class to attend. “I think I was expecting a bigger crowd but I know people had class,” Griffiths said.
The rally, hosted by the Climate Justice League, was billed as a walkout to resist Trump and his cabinet’s streak of climate change denial. Trump has said he will reverse Barack Obama’s climate change combat efforts.
“We’re just showing our support and resistance to climate change and what Trump is so obviously displaying,” Selena Blick, co-director of the Climate Justice League, said. “We’re trying to empower students on campus to voice their support on this issue.”
Sociology professor John Foster said he had “some bad news” for the crowd of 70 that sat around the EMU Amphitheater on Monday afternoon.
“We are in a very, very serious situation,” said Foster. “When we are talking about the carbon budget, we are talking about the point of no return.”
Few walked out of class early in protest of Trump, but the rally was successful in attracting passersby between classes.
According to Foster, humanity was going to go over the climate cliff despite the Paris agreement and clean-energy initiatives spurred on by the most recent president.
“Under Trump, everything is worse,” he said
Rachel Penrose, a first year biology major, said the rally caught her attention on her way to class. She didn’t know about the rally but stopped to listen to speakers explain the history of climate change denial.
“This is a good way to help people become more educated,” Penrose said. “It’s the best place to start to try to organize something.”
According to Blick, the University of Oregon branch of the Climate Justice League planned Monday’s walkout after hearing about similar protests at universities around the country.
Deb McGee, a volunteer for a climate change awareness group based in Eugene called 350 Eugene, spoke to the crowd. She said the idea of the “350” initiative is based on the idea that 350 parts per million of carbon is the upper limit for a safe atmosphere for “our species and many species to live in.”
“We saw it on the 350 website as it being a national movement across other college campuses,” Blick said. “So we pulled from that and just kind of made it our own a little bit and just really tried to bring a lot of awareness about the issue.”
According to the event’s Facebook page over 350 people were “interested” in the event but a little more than 100 attended. Blick said that the Climate Justice League was happy with the turnout and mentioned the short notice they gave to students.
“It was more just to show support,” Blick said. “The walkout rally format was designed by students at other schools and we’re copying that to show support across the country.”
The goal was to raise awareness about climate issues and the fight right-wing politicians — the Trump administration in particular — plan to bring against environmental proponents. However, most students who came out on Monday were already savvy to climate change issues.
“I came out to support fighting against climate change deniers,” Griffiths said. “I was expecting to see experts talking about it, sharing their side, their opinions, theories and ideas.”
“I’ve been to a couple of rallies this size,” Griffiths said, “so I wasn’t surprised by it […] there’s not as many people here. I think this is a good start but I think there are more effective ways to spread the word.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the event was planned to continue until 4 p.m. This has been been corrected and the Emerald regrets this error. The original headline was also changed to better reflect the tone of the story.
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