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Forward on Climate

 

I’m learning very quickly that, while our addresses here do say we live in Washington D.C., Georgetown and its neighborhood are cozily set apart from the rest of the city. This is really quite nice—the city is there when we want it, and when we feel like being in a suburb or enjoying our campus, we can. We all want to venture into the city, and often we tell ourselves that we will—this weekend would be great to go to the National Gallery, right? Except then the schoolwork, the on-campus events, and our general lives as undergrads pulls us back in. As much as this is fine, I am also going to encourage you to wander into D.C. for something you want…even if it is alone.

Why am I saying this? I had an experience today that reminded me why I had chosen Georgetown.

You might need some background.

My friends tease me for being an avid environmentalist, and this I’m quite used to. I’m used to much worse, really, since I come from a place where being an environmentalist was (for reasons I still do not understand) somewhat unacceptable. In any case, I got an email a couple months ago from an environmental activism website I follow called 350.org about their lecture tour that was coming to DC. I went ahead and bought my tickets, even talked a couple of friends into coming with me, and a couple weeks went by.

The week of, I spotted the lecture on my calendar. Had I really decided to go on that Sunday afternoon? I still wanted to go, but it was pretty far into the city. I’d need a bus; I’d need to figure out how to get there. But I still wanted to go, especially since my friends would come with me.

A couple of days before the event—and then the day of—it happened that none of my friends could actually come. Waking up early (or at least, earlier than I wanted to) to go to this event all by myself made me uneasy, and I found myself really reluctant to go. I had schoolwork, I had other things to be doing, why go? But I made myself get on that bus and get to the theatre.

Many might accuse me of being slightly dramatic. Some of my friends do. But as I walked into that theatre, I saw for the first time a huge number of people who wanted the same thing that I want; people who wanted to take direct action to help the environment. We saw Bill McKibben, one of the leading environmentalists in this country, speak, and I was so moved by the audience’s enthusiastic responses to his words of wisdom and inspiration for action. A few minutes into the lecture, I found out that this event was not only a lecture, but that the lecture would precede a protest against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in which we would march around the White House, calling on President Obama not to allow the pipeline to be built. Again, my reluctance kicked in, and a sizable part of me wanted to get back on the bus after the lecture and knock out some work, or at least take a nap. But as the lecture went on and my inspiration and hope grew, I saw that there was no way I couldn’t go out there and march with these people. I had been waiting my whole life to find these people, the ones who wanted environmental justice and were willing to work for it. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

So I took my sign and I marched. I marched and chanted with 3000 other people (saying “Hey! Obama! We don’t want no pipeline drama!” Hey, it rhymed.) I might not have been with close friends, but marching and raising my voice brought back to mind why I had wanted to be in DC, a hub for activity like this. Six hours after I had left Georgetown, I walked back to campus from the White House covered in 350.org stickers and holding my protest sign. Few times in my life have I felt that proud.

That was in November. Since then we had been preparing for the Forward on Climate Rally scheduled for today. Today, I met up with different Georgetown environmental groups and walked over to the Washington Monument, where 40,000 other people joined us to ask President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. And just like when I walked into that theater in November, my heart swelled when I saw 40,000 people (can we please just take a moment and think about how many forty thousand people is) who were as excited to be there as I was. We rallied and then marched around the White House… in 25 degree weather for four hours. And there are few times when I’ve had so much fun.

I tell this rather long (sorry!) story for a couple of reasons, the most simple of which is to remind Georgetown collegiettes to get into DC! There is simply too much out there to have an excuse not to get out. The second reason—which my more hippie side is driving—is to ask you what you are passionate about. You might not have discovered your cause yet, or maybe you are already actively involved in it. In either case, respond to the drive that causes you to care. Chances are there is some way to follow that spark of energy in the form of volunteering, protesting, or interning in DC. Washington is a really cool place to be an activist. You might meet 40,000 of your new best friends.

 

Photo courtesy: 350.org

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