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Tufts environmental groups participate in Keystone XL Pipeline protest

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 01:02

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Courtesy Glyn Lowe Photoworks via Flickr Creative Commons

Thirty Tufts students participated in the Forward on Climate Rally protest this weekend in Washington, D.C. against the installation of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Tufts students joined over 35,000 people at the demonstration on the National Mall as well as a march to the White House, according to Tufts Divest for Our Future Co−Founder Anna Lello−Smith, a junior.

If approved, the Keystone Pipeline will carry oil from Canada to Texas to be refined, which could be environmentally damaging, Students for a Just and Stable Future organizer Devyn Powell said.

Tufts protestors worked with the organization 350.org, a website that fosters a global climate movement, which led the effort to supply charter buses from the Boston area to Washington, D.C., Powell said.

Powell, a junior, was one of two students who participated in a sit−in demonstration against the pipeline last month in Westborough, Mass.

“Students said they tried to get President Barack Obama to consider his climate change legacy to encourage his vote against the pipeline,” Eco−Rep Evan Bell said.

“Recently President Obama has talked more about having an environmental plan and addressing it, and we were trying to give him some direction,” Bell, a sophomore, said. “This Keystone Pipeline is one of the biggest immediate threats to climate change as far as human infrastructure, so we wanted to make sure President Obama knew our opinion.”

Students enjoyed participating in a protest of this size, Tufts Divest member Kit Collins said. “Other than the political significance of the rally, it felt amazing to be part of such a huge movement,” Collins, a sophomore, said.

While on the National Mall, students heard from speakers including 350.org Founder Bill McKibben, Junior Senator from Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse and environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, Lello−Smith said.

“Thousands and thousands and thousands of people were packed together around a big stage, listening to speakers talk about issues we were passionate about,” Lello−Smith said. “It was incredible.”

During the rally, pop music played as students danced around the National Mall and continued to do so on their march towards the White House, Powell said.

“At one point we joined a Congo line led by [former Green Party candidate for president of the United States] Jill Stein,” Powell said.

While marching, students chanted slogans including, “Hey Obama, we don’t want no climate drama,” and “Sasha and Malia deserve something cleaner,” Bell said.

Collins was inspired by the protest to continue to work towards solving climate issues.

“Obviously just a rally isn’t going to accomplish anything, but it was a really amazing symbolic moment that thousands and thousands of people around the country had converged in Washington, and I realized that we were the climate movement,” she said. “We are so huge and so strong, and it felt as if there was no way we couldn’t win right now.”

Environmental groups at Tufts were encouraged by the protest, Tufts Divest member Natalie Kobsa−Mark said.

“It was clear to me that the environmental movement is becoming mainstream,” Kobsa−Mark, a freshman, said. “I think the challenge at this point is to make sure that these types of issues stay on people’s radars, and that this movement stays mainstream.”

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