Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition

Unifying the voice of a generation in environmental solidarity

Do the Math and KXL Action in DC

on November 21, 2012

This past Thursday at 3:00 PM I received a text from 350.org organizer Janina Klimas asking if, provided funding, the MSSC could get a bus full of MI students to attend Bill McKibben’s Do the Math talk and White House action around the Keystone XL pipeline.

This past Saturday at midnight I stepped on to a bus with 53 Michigan students from 4 different campuses all ready and excited to spend 24 out of the next 48 hours on a bus to/from DC to hear Bill and demand that President Obama say no the Keystone XL pipeline.

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As noted in Inside Climate News, getting 53 students to attend this event last minute was surprisingly easy. After our work this past fall around the Prop 3 campaign, I was able to use the MSSC’s newly expanded network to reach many more student leaders to help recruit people from their campuses to get on the bus with us. Of course, our success also had a lot to do with how fired up and awesome MI students are to begin with. CMU students from the Student Environmental Alliance are so awesome that they made a MI against KXL parachute for all of us to play with during the action on Sunday!

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Because of this awesome visual and the excitement level of MI students, we were a big hit at the action! Here are some highlights that we were really excited about:

– Bill McKibben gave us a shout-out while on stage during his Do the Math talk that called on everyone to start working towards getting our institutions (college campuses!!) to divest from fossil fuel companies. One thing that is certain for our climate is that these fossil fuel companies (AKA the richest industry in the history of money) will do everything in their power to delay climate action so that they can keep making money. With this extremely large obstacle standing in the way of a livable future, saving the planet, keeping countries above water, and other important things, its time to get serious about limiting their power to affect our policies and politics and making it clear that supporting them in any way is unacceptable. Did you know that most universities generate revenue by investing their money in fossil fuel companies? Something must be done.

– Bill McKibben signed our parachute and told us that he would skype with MI students anytime! Maybe he can help us take some action on all the Enbridge pipelines being built through and around our state and waters.

– MI students marched around the White House with 3000 other concerned friends to demand that President Obama say NO to the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2010 many MI students participated in a similar white house action where 1200 people were arrested in the largest non-violent action our generation has ever seen. This action got President Obama to say no to the pipeline for the first time, when it seemed a done deal that it would go forward. Unfortunately, TransCanada was able to begin construction on the southern leg of their pipeline, which is being currently  being protested and delayed by many brave individuals. After TransCanada re-submitted the whole plan through the State Department, its time for Obama to make another decision on whether or not this plan to bring tar sands oil from Canada through the Gulf of Mexico should go forward. (hint: it shouldn’t! This pipeline has been described as “game over for the climate” by NASA scientist James Hansen)

Overall we had a great trip that allowed us to bond as environmental students in Michigan, as well as to take action on an issue that is extremely important to us. To take us out, here’s some thoughts from some students in attendance (you know, the people who really matter!)

Vinncent Roncelli, Central Michigan University:

The Keystone XL pipeline is of great concern to me because it would lock the United States into a dependency on dirty fossil fuels. Climate change is happening and carbon emissions released from these burning fossil fuels is one of the greatest contributors to our warming planet. There are so many passionate students here at Central Michigan University that care about the well-being of our environment, so we decided it’s time to tell the Obama administration we do not need his dirty pipeline plan, and it is time to start investing in clean renewable energy. Thousands of concerned citizens rallied around the white house to spread this message and I truly believe they heard us, and if they decide to ignore our message, we will be back. We wont stop until our dependency on dirty fossil fuels stop!

Marissa Solomon, University of Michigan:

Living in Michigan, we don’t get a lot of opportunities to tell our government that we care about the environment, and that the climate needs to be a top priority. That’s why I decided to go to DC this weekend. The Obama administration has an Earth-changing decision on their hands, and we need as many people as possible to tell them that they need to say no to this dirty pipeline, and to say yes to new policies that will reduce our carbon emissions and start making progress toward a green economy and a safer climate. Marching in solidarity with 3,000 people and over 50 Michiganders was really amazing and inspiring, and I know that we made a difference!

The Sierra Club recently announced its intentions to join 350.org in the next Keystone XL White House action, scheduled close to the time when President Obama will have to make the decision. How many students will join us for that one?

And I know that all of the students who attended will join me in saying a big THANK YOU to the amazing 350.org organizers that made all of this possible! Can’t wait to see you all again soon!

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