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People’s Climate Mobilization to take place Saturday at RI State House

Rhode Island becomes 50th state to organize sister march on 100th day of Trump administration

The Rhode Island Student Climate Coalition will host a sister march April 29 at 11 a.m. at the Rhode Island State House as hundreds of protesters gather for the People’s Climate Movement in Washington.

The march follows the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City, which called on world leaders to take more action fighting climate change. The mobilization represents a large coalition bringing “different environmental and social justice groups across the state together for a more effective environmental movement,” said Jon Gewirtzman ’17, an RISCC organizer of the event.

The march also comes on the heels of President Trump’s March budget proposal, which would cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. In the past, he has also called global warming a hoax created by the Chinese.

“Donald Trump is a threat to the future of our planet, the safety of our communities and the health of our families,” reads a statement on the march’s website.

Trump’s campaign promise to pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate action is proof that “his administration doesn’t really appreciate how big of an issue climate change is,” said Sarah Lettes ’19, a RISCC member and organizer.

“We’re not just fighting for a healthier climate and cleaner air,” Lettes said. “What we’re marching for is (also) jobs, injustice and an economy that’s more fair and more locally driven.”

While traditional environmental organizations such as Save The Bay and Audubon Society are expected to attend, movements that center on other social issues will also make an appearance. The list of speakers includes Adnan Adrian Wood-Smith, the University’s associate chaplain for the Muslim community and president of the R.I. Council for Muslim Advancement, and Michael Araujo, executive director of R.I. Jobs with Justice — a worker’s advocacy organization.

“All these people are affected by local environmental issues and climate change, and we’re all here fighting regardless of what movements we’re already plugged into,” said Lauren Maunus ’19, an RISCC event organizer.

Members of RISCC were approached by J. Timmons Roberts, professor of environmental studies and sociology, and asked to spearhead the movement after Rhode Island was left as the only state without a planned march for April 29. The organizers hope the mobilization will put pressure on both national and local governments to take action against climate change.

“There’s a lot of division within Trump’s advisors on whether or not to move along with (the Paris Agreement),” Lettes said. “Hopefully this march will be one more force to push them towards action rather than backing away,” she added.

On a local level, the RISCC hopes the march will show a large backing for environmentally-friendly local legislation, such as the Energize R.I. Act,  which prices carbon to reduce emissions and is now in its third year of legislation without passage.

The RISCC aims to elevate the voices of Rhode Island citizens in the march and wants to put high-schoolers and middle-schoolers at the forefront because “they’re the ones who are going to be here a long time,” Lettes said. “This is their community.”

Kaylynn Polley, a senior at Rocky Hill School, is scheduled to speak at the march Saturday. Polley, whose interest in environmental science was sparked when she volunteered at the Save the Bay Exploration Center in Newport two years ago, has been contacting other high schools and community service clubs to spread the word.

“The younger generations are the ones that can be the most passionate about (climate change) because this is our future,” Polley said.

Beyond the mobilization on Saturday, RISCC hopes to get involved with the other movements taking place across Rhode Island, including an upcoming march for labor rights and justice.

“A lot of what we want to achieve aligns with those goals because the forefront of climate change action should be social justice,” Lettes said. “We want to make sure people are connected to those efforts.”



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