Yesterday, on the 19th of February, the Student Environmental Association (SEA) led an on campus march at the University of South Florida (USF) to rally for environmentally friendly legislative change. Protestors united and called for the enactment of laws that were both relevent to climate change and consistent on addressing the issue. Students brought positive energy, large signs, and loud voices in order to get this point across, chanting “No coal, No oil, We don’t want our world to boil!,” “Hey hey, ho ho, Keystone Pipeline’s got to go!,” as well as my personal favorite “Hey, Obama! We don’t want no climate drama!”
We began with a small press conference outside a major student hub on campus, telling fellow students and news organizations our goals for the protest and the environment as a whole. Everyone then marched across campus to Marco Rubio’s office, where we were hoping to give a letter to the Senator’s staff, that detailed our needs and desires for environmental legislative support for Obama.
As the protestors and cameras crammed into the hallway outside his office, a representative invited us in and offered to meet with us. A dozen student activists poured into the cramped meeting room as we delievered the letter and made our case. Kendall Donahue spoke on behalf of the protestors, telling the representative that Rubio’s constituents were calling for environmental legislative support for President Obama. She asked that Rubio come forth and openly declare climate change as a real and detrimental problem, as well as support Congressional legislative change to help resolve this serious concern.
The staff member, although very welcoming and polite to our protestors, promised to pass on the request to Rubio but did not seem supportive of our cause in the slightest. He stated that climate change was something some “believed in,” but that others did not. The staffer also tried to push the problem onto India and China, saying that they were just as guilty in assualting the environment but doing nothing about promoting climate policy. At this point in the meeting, Donahue and fellow activist Shaza Hussein stated that the United States, as a world leader, needs to set forth an example and take the initiative of making this a global concern. Even Sierra Club representative Phil Compton jumped in, pointing out that sea level rise, the consequence of climate change perhaps most feared in Florida, would actually destroy most of Rubio’s home counties. Overall, the USF protestors communicated the need for environmental legislative support quiet well, defending the validity and threats of climate change for our state. The meeting concluded with a sense of accomplishment and polite handshakes, allowing for the rest of the march to continue.
From here, protestors marched to the Patel Center, where the National Climate Assessment Town Hall Meeting was taking place. We concluded the march with a few final chants outside the building, as well as a discussion amongst the students about future opportunities of activism. Our successful march and rally that day is just one component of making sure our voices are heard. Many more demonstrations will have to occur for positive change, but we are all for putting that effort out there. We are students. We are activists. We care about our environmental legacy. And that, my friends, is what democracy looks like.