Students attend “Forward on climate” rally

Junior+J.C.+Clark+and+sophomore+Sarah+Metzel+hold+protest+signs+in+front+of+the+White+House+as+they+exercise+their+constitutional+right+to+freedom+of+assembly.

Junior J.C. Clark and sophomore Sarah Metzel hold protest signs in front of the White House as they exercise their constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

Crippling drought. Devastating wildfires. Superstorm Sandy. These disasters are just a few names on a lengthy and eye-catching list of climate related catastrophes that have recently plagued planet earth. This list of disasters can also be found on the enviornmentalist website 350.org – an organization that is trying to build a international grassroots movement to solve the world’s many climate problems.

On Sunday, Feb. 17 at noon, not even the frigid winter chill could prevent thousands of eager environmentalists and conscientious citizens from gathering at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to protest the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. 350.org named this massive event the “Forward on climate” rally – playing off of Obama’s campaign slogan, “Forward”.

“Hey, Obama, we don’t want no pipeline drama!” The protesters at the rally could be heard chanting catchy phrases such as this one in the spirit of the event. Many of the chants were geared toward Obama – a major proponent of the pipeline plan.

“Hey, Obama, listen to the Dalai Lama!” As people marched through the streets, leaders of the event would spontaneously start chants. The phrases were easy to pick up and catchy, so the popular chants spread like wildfire.

“Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Keystone Pipeline’s got to go,” was a favorite at the rally. Simple and direct, the words got the message across to anyone who would listen.

The purpose of the underground Keystone pipeline would be to transport crude oil from Canada down to southern and central US – namely the states of Texas and Illinois. Construction of this pipeline is already underway, and it has received bipartisan support from the President and the Republican Congress alike.

The protesters at the “Forward on climate” rally largely regarded the construction of the Keystone pipeline as a mistake, with many negative implications for the environment. There are both positive and negative aspects of the issue.

The construction of the Keystone pipeline would create jobs, but at the same time increase America’s dependency on oil as a main energy source. Also, people have already begun to see the pipeline affect their personal lives- land has been taken away, and people have been forced to move out of house and home to make way for construction zones.

Arguments have also been made for and against the maintenance of the pipeline. With such a large pipeline, there are countless ways for the system to malfunction. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was disastrous, but a mishap with this pipeline could be even more devastating. On the other hand, maintaining this structure would also create more jobs for the unemployed.

“I loved the rally. I think more people in our community should come out to these things,” junior J.C. Clark said. “Annandale is really split in the middle between liberals and conservatives. Coming into D.C. for any sort of protest allows people from both sides to see another point of view.”

“Fracking”, another practice associated with the Keystone pipeline, was another activity being protested at the event. “Fracking” involves the often dangerous process of extracting natural gas and other materials from deep below the surface of the earth. It has been known to contaminate drinking water, adding deadly chemicals and gases to the water supply.

“You frack me, I’ll frack you up!’ This racy slogan was chanted by those more adamantly opposed to the practice of “fracking”.

One of the most interesting aspects of the “Forward on climate” rally were the creative and colorful signs that could be seen swaying above the crowd. While there was a standard protest sign created by 350.org, there were also a variety of homemade protest signs.

By exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of assembly, protesters at the rally hoped to influence legislation and open the minds of their opposition.

“It’s healthy to see a different point of view because you become closer to the people in your community by seeing their perspective,” Clark said.