Just Senior Year of College Things: Navigating Unpredictability, New Chapters, and A Global Pandemic

Written by Ravena Pernanand

Unexpected emails and last-minute packing

When the first whispers of COVID-19 were emerging in the United States, I was packing my luggage and boarding a 4am flight at JFK airport. An impending pandemic was the last thing on my mind. Rather, I was preoccupied with the tasks that awaited me at the commencement of my semester abroad in Amsterdam: grocery shopping, introductions, and a much needed nap. Needless to say, I slept like a log when orientation activities came to a close. 

Honor, a best friend from my school at home, was also taking part in the same exchange program as me. I constantly reminded myself of how thankful I was for her presence throughout the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture. Her guidance and serene disposition always balanced my moments of frantic anxiety and paranoia, these traits were most apparent when the universe threw a wrench into our semester. The weeks leading up to the dreadful email from our home institution were surreal. In the rainy Amsterdam mornings, we dragged our bodies out of bed and trudged along the cobblestone streets to class, pointing out our favorite houseboats lining the canals. On the weekends we filled ourselves to the brim with cheap wine and stroopwafel and navigated the tram system to newly discovered destinations. I often felt like I was watching my life occur from the outside as I shed old skin and re-emerged as a happier and more resilient version of myself. Somehow, five weeks managed to feel like a lifetime.

A continual buzzing sound always existed in the background of these newly formed moments, growing in volume until we had no choice but to acknowledge it. It started with reports of the virus, dubbed “corona,” circulating around Europe. “Use precaution when traveling” our program directors would say in emails that ended in soothing reassurement that the semester would proceed as planned. The background noise seemed to have a blinding effect as well. Even when friends on exchange programs in China and Italy began packing their luggages 15 weeks early, there was a disconnect between our perceived world and theirs. “Yea, it happened in Italy, but we’re totally fine–it won’t spread  here.” But slowly, the sound filled every room, every conversation, and previously suppressed thought. 

On a Wednesday morning in March, I awoke to emails of US schools closing. Twitter memes and angry Instagram stories emerged from the recesses of the digital world. When I put my phone down, I could re-enter the alternate reality that COVID-19 had not yet managed to fully consume.

On a Thursday morning, only five of the twenty wooden chairs in my Dutch language class were occupied. It seemed that many students had returned back to the States, instructed by worried parents and fast acting educational institutions. I walked home in a confused haze. Looking back on this moment, it’s laughable that I had the audacity to be shocked by these events. In the last three weeks, exchange students all around me had been falling off the European map and into airplane seats headed home.

On a Friday evening at 11pm Central European Time, the upper lefthand corner of my pillowcase began to glow. I turned my phone from its facedown position to find an email from my school: “Important Notification for Hamilton Students in Europe,” flagged red, an endless scroll of instructions for returning home, demands bolded in black, the gravity of the situation underlined in the sender’s tone.

On a Sunday morning I awoke as Amsterdam lay in a pre-dawn slumber. Sluggishly, Honor and I cleared the remaining boxes and trash bags from our studio apartment, filled with uneaten stroopwafel and recyclable glass bottles once filled with cheap wine. In a time before N95 surgical masks were added to the list of things to grab before heading out the door, (phone, keys, wallet…what am I forgetting? Ah, facemask!), I stood outside my apartment building and filled my lungs with air. 

Self care, community, and silver linings

Upon landing home and resettling into both the familiar and unfamiliar, I’ve had time to do nothing but contemplate. In fact, it feels like the universe has forced contemplation upon me like undeserved purgatory. I’m all for self reflection, but the lines between insanity and deep thought can become blurred, a spell that can only be broken by preheating the oven and willing the premature bananas on the counter to quicken their process. 

Ironically enough, in self isolation the importance of community has never felt more powerful to me. As I struggled to mold a routine from quicksand and my anxiety reached an all time high, the zoom calls and group chats kept me afloat. My friendships were silver linings: a source of calm and comfort. Though in a time when teetering from one extreme to another can become habitual, the notion of self care began to redefine itself for me: How much time was too much screen time when the outside world is only accessible through a screen? Could I interact with my friends while still taking time for myself? Was I comfortable with being alone? Do I really need to make another loaf of banana bread this week? 

This time of reflection has allowed me to understand the things that remind me of my humanity and that make me feel connected to others. Quarantine can feel stagnant and cold, but it has also been a time of extreme change. Babies have taken their first breath, couples have tied the knot, and social movements have erupted since the world has shut down. In a constant effort to feel and exist and breathe freely again, people have managed to reach each other from all ends of the world. Empathy has managed to persist even when leadership and institutions have shown callousness and ignorance. Working at CCAN this Summer has been another silver lining, an opportunity to feel connected to this outside world, a community built on a foundation of empathy. Though the physical distance and computer screens attempt to muffle this experience, my superiors and co-workers have filled this void with communication, warmth, and morale. 

As I ready myself to return to campus in the coming weeks, these concepts float around in my head: empathy, community, care, communication. I can choose to view my senior year as an experience hindered by a global pandemic. Many people are angry at lost opportunities and muted versions of their old lives, they are entitled to this anger. But in times of adversity people manage to be the most resilient versions of themselves. They shed old skin and re-emerge stronger. 

Finding Hope in the Unglamorous Climate Fights

Written by Alice Bell

I’ve always been drawn to the weird, kinda-niche parts of fighting climate change; divestment, the ins and outs of building energy codes, and so on. They’re deeply necessary, but feel sneaky because they can be very complex and don’t always get lots of airtime – they’re less obvious than renewable energy, bicycles, or LED bulbs. 

And I’ve been looking for these hidden bits my whole life. When I was in elementary school, I was a “Recycling Ranger” for two years, staying after school with other students to collect and sort the recycling from all the classrooms in the building to ensure the school kept up the program – my parents still ask me if certain things can be recycled or not. They did give us little hats with the recycling symbol on them, but it still wasn’t glamorous – it just needed doing and it was small enough for a nine-year-old to help with. 

From Recycling to Divesting

I heard about the divestment movement as a first-year at Smith College in 2017. Divestment at the college level is a topic and a strategy full of minute contradictions, multi-school organizing meetings, bureaucratic wrangling, and incredibly obscure jargon – so, of course it interested me. To divest from something refers to the choice to remove one’s investments from fossil fuels, and can be interpreted narrowly or broadly – it can also apply to other issues, such as private prisons and gun manufacturers. 

Divest strategy meeting 2019 (Alice is on the right)

My role for two years has been as a student representative to the ACIR, the advisory body for the investing committee of the board of trustees. The gulf between the students and the trustees is comically large, and also not – they are tasked with keeping Smith endowed for decades to come, while we are trying to graduate with a livable planet. Smith has a very large endowment, and as an historically women’s college, likes to think of itself as somewhat revolutionary – educating women in the 1890s and 1900s certainly went against the grain. But investing in fossil fuels is the antithesis of “being revolutionary” – in fact, it goes directly against everything we need to be doing about climate change. 

While working on divestment, my fellow students and I had to get really smart about economics, endowment structures, and institutional investing really quickly, and it was stressful and hair-raising. Spending all those hours online reading articles and jumping through bureaucratic hoops to get the board to even consider our ask took teamwork and a lot of dedication, from generations of students — but it worked. The divestment movement at Smith was twelve years old when we won a commitment from the board in October 2019 to divest the school’s endowment of fossil fuels

COVID Summer

Jules making dinner after work

Jules, one of my best friends, and I had big plans for summer 2020. We met during an eight-month political science intensive in DC last year, and we were planning to live in DC again, together; she would continue her public defense work, and I would continue my work on climate change. We would compost, bike, read, watch bad movies, and get to know this city that I grew up in and that she was transplanted to. Make no mistake, we were blindingly privileged to be able to have such plans, in part because Smith has funding for unpaid internships. 

But then the pandemic hit and her position was canceled and other internships became very thin on the ground. And out of this came my internship with CCAN, an organization that I’d been hearing about since childhood, as a communications intern, allowing me to use my love of writing and art in service of environmental activism. 

Behind the Scenes at CCAN

Every organization has a personality and an environment behind-the-scenes. Before this summer, I had spent a lot of time doing research and working on federal environmental policy. The problems there are connected but incredibly different, and the approaches are consequently different. 

I’m the communications intern, and while I love writing (even final papers), I had never done the kind of serious social media work that CCAN has taught me. Communication is a central part of the climate fight, but so is the minutiae of social media; understanding what kinds of tweets do and don’t work; how to write an event invite that engages people; refining op-eds; preparing live tweets for protests and rallies; creating and tweaking graphics for every event. Without devoted attention paid to these kinds of issues, a crucial link is lost. 

Despite working out of my parents house, never once seeing the office, and connecting with others at CCAN primarily over Slack and in Zoom happy hours, I’ve been able to build new relationships and contribute to this immense problem in my own small way. CCAN works in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, the DMV region I love so much and have been so lucky to grow up in. But this work also reflects the need to stay small; not everything can be addressed at the federal level, and we need local and regional work to really ensure communities are being adequately supported, and unique problems are being properly addressed. 

Sitting in on weekly team meetings, I’ve been able to see the tiniest hint of the work that goes into each campaign, each ask, each article published, and event hosted. Each victory, from passing the VCEA to stopping the ACP and whatever comes next, is the product of huge behind-the-scenes work and specific knowledge gained from all those who have been in this fight longer. More even than that, working specifically on communications for the first time has taught me more about how to make those shadowy topics and distinctions, the niche and sneaky parts of climate change clearer and more accessible. 

Staying Small

It can be hard to see the importance of “smaller” battles and these hidden dimensions can feel very removed from the bigger problem; I struggle against the frustration that we even have to fight on the small scale like this, when climate change should have been dealt with as the massive, urgent problem it is. After I got the news that Smith was divesting, I went back to my desk at work, struck by the incredible tension between this victory and the bigger, more stubborn needles that hadn’t moved. 

But the small battles keep you in community. I’ve met some incredible friends working on divestment, and been able to see the impact of that victory in life on campus. I got to hang out with my friends and run in the halls while collecting the recycling, big stuff for an elementary schooler. We can’t all lead marches or speak to congressional committees, nor should we, but there are a million levels to work at and a million connections to climate in everything we do. And there are local battles going on everywhere, uncountable and ever-changing – it feels like being part of an army I may never see entirely, who’s power we can only guess at because it’s bigger than anything we’ve ever seen before. 

Mountains around Smith College

Facing the COVID-19 Crisis as a College Student

Written by Abbey Kolf

Adjusting to the New Reality

It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating the new year with my family on vacation, my only cares in the world being about seemingly trivial things now: my spring break trip with friends in a few months, my resolution to use less single waste plastic that I swore would stick this time, and the Wisconsin Badgers (my parents alma mater) winning the Rose Bowl football game the next day (I should have known where 2020 was headed when they ended up losing). Little did I know, half way through the second semester of my sophomore year at college I would have to pack up everything and finish out the year back in my hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah along with the rest of my family of five due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

At first, the complete absurdity and newness of being a college student from home was not so bad, and maybe even a bit exciting. I got to spend some rare time with my whole family, have home cooked meals every night, and have an excuse to not leave the house all day (a dream for an introvert like me). This mindset soon faded once it became apparent that having three young adults trying to attend school virtually and a parent working from home all under one roof was going to be quite the challenge and would last longer than anticipated. While wifi issues were constant and too much time together led to petty arguments, my family and I eventually adjusted to the new “normal”.

Moving Forward into more Uncertainty…

After being home for the last 5 months, I am now preparing to head back across the country to start my junior year of college on campus (shout out Villanova University). It is safe to say that it is going to be a semester unlike any other. The majority of my classes will continue to be online, social interactions and events will be sparse, and masks will (hopefully) be worn everywhere.

While I am excited to see my friends and be back on the campus that I know and love, I am also overwhelmed. I’m someone who has always hated traveling into uncharted territory. There are so many unknowns about the rest of my year: Are we going to be sent home again if things go south? Am I going to be miserable and want to kill my roommates? Will college even be fun anymore? It has been hard to stay optimistic about what’s next when unanswerable questions like these are repeatedly brought to mind.

…And Looking Back

As the time with my family in Utah during this pandemic is coming to a close, I am reflecting on how my life has changed over the past five months. While it is easy to dwell on all of the parts that the COVID-19 outbreak may have taken away, I have found that there are a lot of amazing things in my life that were made possible because of the unfortunate circumstances.

Sure, I lost a few months of making memories with my college friends and cannot look forward to having a traditional college experience this fall, but I got to spend (probably too much) time with the people that I love who I normally don’t get to see during the school year, including my pet cat whom I adore.

The places I could go and things I could do have been limited because of social distancing guidelines, but these limitations pushed me to get outside more. I fell back in love with the omnipresent natural beauty of my home state through scenic drives up the canyon, hikes in the majestic mountains, and watching the vivid sunsets from my local park. I am reminded of where my intense love for the environment and devotion to protect it started.

I missed out on a summer of working in D.C., but going virtual gave me the opportunity to join the Empowher BA Women’s Alliance where I made lasting connections with other inspiring young women. I became a trained Climate Reality Leader, furthering my knowledge of climate change and how to fight it. I even interned with CCAN, an unknown nonprofit to me when I started but which I’m now passionate about supporting.

Moral of the story, 2020 may have turned life completely upside down and taken a lot of things from us all. However, as cliche as it may sound, it is important to recognize the challenges as opportunities for growth and ask yourself: What has this year given me?

Striking with Greta Thunberg, the Global Climate Strike, and Beyond

-Written by Helena Schmitt

During my freshman year writing class at the George Washington University this past spring, I wrote a research paper about the “Fridays for Future” climate change movement led by teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. 

This week, I met Greta face to face. 

This month was historic for climate activism. Greta has inspired millions of people around the world since she started skipping school to go on a “climate strike” every Friday for over a year.  As her movement gained traction, she became the central image for the climate change movement and gave speeches to government officials more than twice her age at events such as the COP 24, World Economic Forum, and the EU Parliament.  Then she finally crossed the Atlantic towards New York City on a sailboat, the only carbon-free solution she could find. Her first arrival in North America since beginning the movement has led to a crazy few weeks for climate activists —  not only in DC, but also in America and the world as a whole. I was fortunate enough to see her twice. 

Striking in Front of the White House with Greta Thunberg

It was announced on Wednesday, September 11, that Greta would carry out her 56th strike on September 13 in outside of the White House — only two days later.  I arrived very early; I was excited to interact and strike with a woman I had been admiring for a long time. At first, it was just myself and the organizers in attendance, and I watched the crowd surge in size and anticipation while waiting for Greta to arrive.  The crowd at this strike was young — it looked like a lot of kids actually skipped school to come. A few hundred people ended up striking with merely two days notice, and lead strikers noted that they were used to only having around 20 people join them in the typical Friday strike.  

Besides the over-eager press corps looking to catch a glimpse of Greta in action, this strike felt authentic, like it accurately reflected the Fridays for Future movement as a whole.  The speeches took place on the south side of the White House. The crowd squeezed into the narrow sidewalk, and the lead strikers only used megaphones and their own voices to convey their anger with American lawmakers but hopefulness for the movement as a whole.  When it was finally Greta’s turn to speak, it was brief, only for about a minute. She echoed the messages of the speakers prior, and said “see you next week on September 20th” for the global climate strike. And then it was over.  

Greta Thunberg marching with Friday for Future strikers on the National Mall.

Amnesty International Honors Greta and Other Youth Activists with Top Award

My excitement grew over the next few days as I anticipated watching her accept Amnesty International’s “Ambassador of Conscience” award a few days later on my campus, the George Washington University. The Ambassador of Conscience Award is Amnesty’s highest honor to profound individuals and social groups working to protect human rights. As a current GWU student, I was lucky to obtain a free ticket to the event. The award ceremony was much more formal than the White House “strike.”  Greta, along with a few other notable youth environmental activists, were being honored for their work in the movement. One of the recipients was Tokata Iron Eyes of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. Her speech was actually my favorite of the night as she spoke about her commitment to environmental justice and indigenous rights since she protested the Keystone Pipeline when she was only 12 years old. I had goosebumps when she spoke. 

Greta spoke towards the end, again keeping her remarks short. Following her acceptance of the award, she engaged in a panel discussion with other leaders of Fridays for Future in North America. I got the impression that while Greta recognizes her significance in the movement, she didn’t want to dominate the spotlight. Instead she wanted to recognize other important youth activists she works with. On the panel, she only answered one question that was directly asked of her. Most of the time, she would pass the questions on to her colleagues to allow them to publicly reflect on their time in the movement instead.  

Greta Thunberg accepting Amnesty International’s 2019 Ambassador of Conscience Award for the Fridays for Future Movement.

DC Climate Activists Take Over Capitol Hill

After these two events, of course, came the massive “Global Climate Strike” on September 20.  This strike was to be much bigger than the White House strike with Greta, with people of all ages in attendance. Overall, the event seemed like a success for the lead strikers who watched their Fridays for Future branch grow from a usual crowd of 20 students to a mass of over seven thousand participants.     

It wasn’t as big as some other strikes that took place around the world that day, like the 300,000 that turned out in New York City, but the creative homemade signs and high-energy atmosphere reminded me of the Women’s March and the March For Our Lives. And it is worth considering the cumulative numbers: that same day, strikes took place in more than 1000 cities around the world, including locally in Baltimore, Newport News, Richmond, and Virginia Beach (all places where CCAN had a presence). Overall, more than 4 million people across the world took part in a climate strike. This number is historic

Strikers at the DC Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019.

Unpacking my Wild Week of Climate Activism

 We all knew Greta Thunberg’s arrival in America was a huge deal for the international climate movement. But after having the opportunity to witness first-hand the movement she created, I compiled two major takeaways.  

First, the Fridays for Future movement makes me feel old!  I’ve spent the past week listening to brilliant and compelling speeches detailing the severity of climate change and the failure of older generations to act on it.  I’m only 19 years old and I was still older than nearly every speaker. When a 12-year-old has the courage to speak out in front of hundreds of strikers, onlookers, and possibly even climate change deniers about society’s ignorant inaction on climate change, it becomes too difficult not to feel complicit and part of the problem.  When I was 12, I was afraid to give an oral presentation to my 6th-grade class — let alone a massive crowd of climate activists. I feel old, but I know that I am still young enough to have a future I want to protect. 

Second: this movement is so much larger than just Greta Thunberg or any one individual skipping school. During the first strike I attended, Greta tried her best to blend into the crowd and become a normal student striker.  She made the same effort during the Amnesty International ceremony, which could have easily turned into a night to honor solely Greta. Instead, she brought her top American and Canadian strikers on the stage to accept the award with her and reflect on the inner workings of the movement as a whole.

Greta Thunberg, Jerome Foster III, and more North American Fridays for Future activists participating in a panel for Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience 2019 Award ceremony.

These events have strengthened my belief in just how important it is to be involved in the climate movement right now.  As a student in DC, it amazes me to witness any social movement come to life on the national scale first hand. But having the opportunity to witness a movement so personally relevant and important to me is something that I will never forget.  As the UN Climate Summit takes place during this week and more Friday climate strikes in the future, I remain optimistic that eventually our world leadership will shift its course on climate action. It is times like these that remind me why I chose to pursue my higher education in our nation’s capital.   

Action in Trump's America: Why I March

The following is a guest post from Elisabeth Hoffman of Howard County Climate Action.
 —
Turns out the chief benefit from Donald Trump’s election lies in the backlash.  
Progress on immigration, environmental justice, women’s rights, #BlackLivesMatter, and health care are at risk. On climate change, in particular, we have shifted from barely addressing the unfolding catastrophe to baldly denying it even exists.  
Yet Marylanders, after six years of trying and against all odds, just passed a ban on fracking. It passed with bipartisan support, along with the Republican governor’s backing, after a massive showing of grassroots resistance to this destructive drilling process. 
In Trump’s America, more long-shot victories like Maryland’s fracking ban are sure to come. Why? Because around the country, mass protests and local actions have become the norm. State attorneys general are challenging the Trump administration, and state lawmakers are passing local protections – such as funding for Planned Parenthood. Communities are not watching idly as hopes for a better future are threatened with every executive order, regressive piece of legislation, and crack-of-dawn tweet.
This resistance began in the disoriented days after No. 45 was elected. Then, the day after Trump took the oath, millions protested around the world in the Women’s March. In D.C. alone, the crowd was three times the size of that on Inauguration Day. After Trump issued his first immigration ban, thousands showed up at airports, cities and towns in protest. Voters are confronting lawmakers at town halls. So deluded and unhinged is this administration, even scientists have had to leave the lab and take to the streets to call for facts instead of alt-facts.  
The push for Maryland’s fracking ban coincided with Trump’s first flailing missteps. Stunned yet determined, a broad coalition of Maryland homeowners, tourism businesses, students, faith leaders, farmers and civic-minded residents demanded protection from an industry that violates regulations, preys on low-income communities, and buys its way out of every lawsuit. This grassroots movement of residents – from Friendsville to Lusby, Bel Air to Frederick, Baltimore to Columbia – signed petitions, mailed postcards, made calls and paid visits to state legislators. They implored town, city and county councils to endorse a ban. They spoke out in congregations and at public hearings. They marched through the streets of small towns and in Annapolis. 
I was among 13 people, mostly faith leaders and Western Marylanders, arrested on March 16 at the State House in Annapolis to proclaim that our movement would not compromise the safety of our homes, our water and our climate. We would settle for nothing less than a ban. The day after our arrests, the tide shifted: Gov. Larry Hogan threw his support to the fracking ban, and in a matter of weeks the ban was in place.
With that same moral outrage, we head for the People’s Climate March on Saturday, April 29.
People are rising up against a president who has delivered the Environmental Protection Agency to a climate-denier known mostly as a serial plaintiff against the agency. They are standing firm against a president who has handed over foreign policy to the former head of Exxon Mobil, a company being sued for misleading the public and lawmakers for decades about climate change. Virginians will attest to coastal flooding. Baltimore residents will say no to their children’s asthma and choking pollution. From Standing Rock to Lancaster, Pa., from the Gulf Coast to the Potomac, communities will rise to protect their water and land and themselves from oil and gas pipelines, from fracked-gas power plants, from fracked-gas export factories.  
We are in a race against rising seas, soaring temperatures, deadly droughts, fiercer storms, spreading diseases, forced migrations, dying oceans, and widening wealth gaps. Last week, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere topped 410 parts per million, way beyond the levels that allowed human civilizations to take hold. In 1958, when record-keeping started at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the level was 280 ppm.  
The hours that I spent in an Anne Arundel County jail cell, with its peeling paint and one small window in the heavy door, seem an apt metaphor for our nation’s limited and tired vision in the face of humanity’s greatest challenge. We must rush toward the world outside the cramped cell of our fossil-fueled world. That the current administration is running equally fast to slam the door spurs us to fight even harder. 
Our uprising must and will be loud and persistent. In Trump’s version of America, the measure of our relief will be the extent of our enduring resistance.  
## 

The Peoples Climate March is Red, White, and Blue

Guest post by Rick Shingles, member of Preserve Giles County

On April 29, I plan to travel more than 500 miles to Washington D.C. for the Peoples’ Climate Mobilization. For me, marching is about more than politics, more than ideology.
For me, the issue is deeply personal.
The fossil fuel industry threatens my community in southwest Virginia. The proposed fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is routed to bisect Newport which sits in the middle of the active Giles County seismic zone in the midst of the Appalachian fold belt. This 42-inch diameter pipeline would carve through steep ridges and karst valleys in some of the most pristine natural habitat and biodiversity in the world.
Our natural heritage, endangered species, aquifers (the primary source of our farm and residential water), safety from catastrophe like the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, peace of mind, property values and property rights are all at risk.
Our town is just one casualty of a vast fracked-gas pipelines infrastructure either built or planned. There are 9,000 miles of new oil and gas pipelines proposed in the U.S. with 19 (including the MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline) in Appalachia alone. And tens of thousands of homes and businesses are being sacrificed to supply the product these pipelines transport: fracked methane, an even more lethal greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Multiple perils accompany every stage of hydraulic fracturing: the toxic mix of chemicals used to induce it, the dispersal and storage of waste water which can poison drinkable water and soils, seismic activity, methane leaks at every stage of production and distribution, and the destruction of green economies.
A Roanoke Times editorial presents my county as a model for developing outdoor recreational economies. Yet our economy is imperiled by the MVP. The pipeline would cross tributaries of the New River (some multiple times). It would block access to Mountain Lake and the Cascades during the construction. And the Jefferson National Forest could become split by a 500-foot wide utility corridor.
All of this could upend fifteen years of collaboration by local businesses and county government to build a tourism economy that currently provides $26 million in annual business revenue, 16% of our sales tax, $90,000 in transient occupancy taxes and two percent of total tax revenue. That is a lot for a sparsely settled, rural county. We don’t want it trashed by an interstate pipeline ally.
Why should so many American communities be sacrifice zones to supply this fuel to other nations, a good number of which ban fracking?
That’s why I’m going to march in Washington.
I will support Americans in all communities that are being sacrificed to supply fracked gas.
And for what? For continued reliance on antiquated twentieth century energy sources that are increasingly unnecessary, less plentiful and more expensive than wind, solar, hydraulic, and tidal power?
I am going to fight for greater regulation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that appears controlled by the very gas and oil industry it is supposed to regulate, approves any and all interstate pipeline applications, grants private companies eminent domain to take our land, and runs roughshod over state and local governments.
I am going for my children and grandchildren – to preserve a natural heritage threatened by our addiction to fossil fuels, to help stave off rising seas and coastal flooding and the fundamental alteration of inland climates that underlie many traditional industries (See Stephen Nash’s Virginia Climate Fever: How Global Warming will Transform Out Cities, Shorelines, and Forests). Climate disruption could well lead to unprecedented mass migrations and economic, social and political instability that could destabilize governments and exacerbate international conflicts.
The dire threats posed by climate disruption should not be partisan issues, red-states versus blue-states, or framed by ideologues of the left or the right.
I will journey to Washington understanding that each of us must look to ourselves first to protect our communities, preserve our natural heritage and safeguard our progeny. If we fail, I will not solely blame any particular individual or political party or politicians in general. Each citizen has the responsibility to reduce his or her own environmental footprint and to fulfill the obligation of democratic citizenship. We must act to hold our leaders accountable. We must take direct action.
I accept this responsibility.
One day, I hope to tell my grandchildren that I – with millions of others – met this singular challenge and became this nation’s greatest generation.


Rick Shingles is associate professor emeritus at Virginia Tech and coordinator of Preserve Giles County.

Climate Documentary Inspires Local Activists

When it comes to fighting climate change, people power is our greatest weapon. This is the message I took with me from CCAN’s screening of the documentary Chasing Ice in Richmond. Last Thursday night at the Camel, I was able to see what comes of weeks of planning, stress, and seemingly endless phone calls and emails. The result was a room full of people who were motivated and ready to take action against climate change.
 
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VP Biden: Virginians say no KXL

How do you get the attention of one of the most powerful decision makers in the world?

Many would say there is only one route: through his wallet. Though this past Saturday, I saw another way: through the people. After countless hours petitioning and phonebanking, the big day had finally come. We set up in front of the coliseum and waited for our activists to arrive. Over the course of fifteen minutes around seventy people showed up. We outfitted them with magic marker signs and homemade miniature wind turbines and began the slow march around the convention center.


 
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Fighting Water Pollution in Curtis Bay

Blog07-28-13
On Wednesday we were out in Curtis Bay, Maryland, home to the CSX Coal Facility. CSX is a coal export facility whose huge coal piles are visible when you’re standing on a hill in the neighborhood.
This isn’t the first time we’ve been out there. Four other CCAN fellows and I have been out in Curtis Bay multiple times the past few weeks: knocking on doors and talking to local residents about the effects coal pollution has on their day-to-day lives. We’ve heard stories from coal dust coating peoples’ homes and pools, to worries about fishing in local waters, to concerns about kids playing outside.
These issues became critically important leading up to today, because CSX is up for a new water pollution permit – one that needs to be a lot stronger. For example, the current permit doesn’t limit levels of heavy metals that can be dumped right into the harbor.
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Reactions to the 10th Vegetarian Festival by a CCAN Fellow

Last Saturday at the 10th Annual Vegetarian Festival in Bryan Park, Richmond, Virginia I experienced my first day petitioning with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network as we began our new campaign – Safe Coastlines. Throughout this campaign we will be collecting thousands of petitions and calling on Virginia policymakers and Dominion power to develop energy efficiency and clean energy, as well reducing the current climate impacts that were already noticing. I was excited to see that virtually everybody was as passionate about protecting Virginia’s coastline from climate change devastation as I am.  

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