Earth Day rally calls for student involvement
Call-and-response chants demanding Rutgers to end fossil fuel investment rang from the steps of Brower Commons last Tuesday on the College Avenue campus.
The Rally for Climate Justice, held by the Rutgers Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, asked students to treat climate change as an issue of human rights, as the environmental changes may affect humans in all parts of the world.
The organization believes the lack of eco-friendly human behavior has had an influence on climate change, and humans have the power and the responsibility to stop environmental damage.
The rally hosted speakers, poets and music performers, appealing to students’ passion for keeping the planet a safe place to live. Shane Patel, the host of the rally, said without action, humans would destroy their own species.
“It sounds dramatic, but it’s the only way we can tell our story truthfully,” said Patel, a School of Engineering junior.
The organization devotes itself to making a difference in environmental policy by urging Rutgers to divest from fossil fuel companies.
Divestment, which is the cancellation of investment, can be a powerful move, Patel said. Since fossil fuel companies are among the biggest offenders of environmental damage, divesting from these companies would send a political and economic message.
Melanie McDermott, a research assistant professor in the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers, said they could envision a future with a fossil-free economy.
“We’re calling on Rutgers to make a statement that we won’t be cowed by the political influence of fossil fuel companies,” said McDermott, associate director of the Rutgers Initiative on Climate and Society.
McDermott believes youth have more power in protesting than they may realize.
“Student leadership has been what’s moved all the important social movements of the century,” she said. “We need youth whose futures are at stake calling on institutions to make a stand.”
McDermott said youth involvement is highly relevant to the divestment campaign and the efforts to protect the environment because today’s actions would determine the future of the planet.
Elizabeth Giardina, who read a poem at the rally, recognizes the importance of making a stand today in order to save the future of the human race.
Giardina, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, has loved nature since childhood, and as she grew up and learned of the impact fossil fuel companies have on the earth, she became committed to preventing more abuse.
Patel praises the initiatives the University takes to promote green habits and lessen waste. He cited the Livingston solar farm, the use of clean, renewable fuel sources and the single-stream recycling program as actions that show Rutgers’ commitment to the environment.
Although these efforts are commendable, Rutgers is just one university, he said. The challenge it faces now is to lead other establishments to follow in its footsteps.
“No matter what we choose to do, if everyone else remains with the status quo, our actions don’t matter,” Patel said.
Events such as the rally aim to gain students’ commitment to promoting a green Earth, he said, because climate change requires long-lasting efforts to affect the interaction between humans and the environment.
“We’re in this for the long haul. It’s not about Earth Day. It’s about making sure we have an Earth to celebrate,” he said.