Despite the fresh coat of snow that glazed the Amherst Green, an estimated 200 people – including 2012 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein – gathered Saturday to protest what they called “climate silence.”
The event focused on protesters’ desire to end fossil fuel subsidies and mitigate the production of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which many scientists believe are already changing the Earth’s climate at alarming rates.
Attendees chanted “fossil fuels are subsidized – it’s time for us to mobilize.”
Demonstrators came and went, causing the size of the crowd to differ at times, though it is estimated that as many as 200 people attended the rally.
The event kicked off at 2 p.m. and included a number of student speakers as well as musical performances. The most anticipated speech of the afternoon was Stein’s.
“You are breaking the stranglehold of not only the fossil fuels, but the fossil fuel politics as well,” Stein told the crowd of green activists during her speech.
She also praised the efforts of the many college students who made the event happen.
“I think for the Five Colleges to be coming together as you are today is exactly the model of what we need to be doing,” Stein said. “No one has greater moral authority than what you have.”
The crowd grew steadily as students, professors and other concerned citizens continued to arrive, showing their support for the green movement with homemade signs and slogans.
Event organizer and Hampshire College student Tika Lifton-Herman addressed the crowd with what she called the rally’s mission statement.
“The silence and complacency that is currently prevailing in our political, academic and public discourses is being directly funded by the very corporate interests that are violating our environment and our future,” she said.
Lifton-Herman believes that climate change is the most important issue currently facing humanity, and said that she thinks corporate lobbying of the government and media is a major barrier that the green movement faces in its attempts to spread awareness about climate change.
“It is something that is being completely silenced by the hegemony and the money that is ruling our society right now,” Lifton-Herman said in an interview shortly after delivering her speech to the crowd.
Many attendees signed petitions that were being promoted by the event organizers. One of those petitions will be sent to Massachusetts Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren, urging her to work toward ending the subsidies being given to fossil fuel companies.
Another petition urged the Five College Consortium into stopping its use of fossil fuels.
Students who attended the rally were widely receptive of the messages being delivered, and some had hopes that their participation in the event would spark broader interest across the nation.
“The way these rallies work is, one college starts stuff and other colleges pick up on it,” said Tyler Mikkelson, a first-year student who is studying film at Hampshire College. “There are people who know about climate change and try to push it away as if there’s nothing going on. I think it’s only right for us to come out here and work to end the silence.”
Chris Trubac can be reached at [email protected]