NJ Climate March braves the storm

On Sunday, April 15 and Monday, April 16, the New Jersey Climate March, hosted at the College by Water Watch, arrived on campus. This included a rally on Sunday in Brower Student Center where Jim Norfleet, vice president of Student Life, spoke on behalf of College President R. Barbara Gitenstein, who recently became the second college president in New Jersey to sign the College Climate Commitment.

On Monday, four College students attended a rally on the steps of the State House, where New Jersey Sen. Barbara Buono spoke.

The Climate March started Friday with a rally at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Marchers then took a train to Princeton Junction and marched to Princeton University, where they had a rally Saturday. They then took a bus and marched to the College in the rain Sunday morning from Lawrenceville.

On Monday morning, marchers, including Andrew Mathe, a sophomore at the College and president of Water Watch, went from campus to the steps of the State House with a banner advertising their goal of cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.

“We really need this momentum,” Buono told the group of about 20 people assembled on the State House steps Monday morning. “We have the tools to solve this. The only thing we’re missing is the political will.”

Buono and Assemblywoman Linda Stender are the two co-sponsors of the Global Warming Response Act.

The group on the State House steps included Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, Don Wheeler, president of the New Jersey Higher Education Partners for Sustainability (NJHEPS), a representative from Stender’s office, Suzanne Leta of Environment New Jersey and Ted Glick, a Green party Senate candidate in 2002 and organizer of the New Jersey Climate March.

“I’m really, really pleased to see all of you here,” Glick said on Monday.

Carlos Rymer, a Cornell University sophomore who initiated the Climate March and marched from Rutgers to the College, said between 400 and 500 people attended the rallies.

“I’m really glad about what we have done,” he said. “We’re calling on Congress, we’re calling on leaders across America.”

Rymer said the plan is to continue the movement for a reduction in carbon emissions and convince all college and university presidents to sign the College President Climate Commitment to reducing energy at the colleges.

Only Rider University signed the commitment before the College.

Brittany Hopkins, a 2005 graduate of Smith College and the other initiator of the Climate March, said she was disappointed Monday morning when only her, Rymer, Glick and Mathe showed up to march to the State House.

However, Hopkins said she realized that the four of them could make a difference.

“People are going to see us from their cars and think ‘those people are crazy,'” she said. “But the global warming situation is crazy.”

“This set the kind of precedent we need for New Jersey,” Suzanne Leta of Environment New Jersey, said. “We need people like you to continue your involvement.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club, cited future changes that will happen if carbon emissions are not reduced.

“What we know and what we love may not be here for future generations,” he said. “This building is the place where we can make that change.”

The rally Monday ended with a chant led by Rymer: “1, 2, 3, 4, Global Warming out the door; 5, 6, 7, 8, we cannot afford to wait.”

The rally on Sunday, originally scheduled for Quimby’s Prairie but moved to Brower Student Center because of inclement weather, began with an introduction by Mathe.

“The question today is whether we will enact these changes out of our own volition, or wait until we are left with no choice but to sort through what remains of contemporary society after the fully manifested entropic processes leave us scrambling yet again for temporary solutions,” Mathe said. “Will we be remembered as the species that could not hear the cry echoing from deep within ourselves, blindly clawing towards satiation in a material realm that cannot possibly satiate our voracious, self-consuming, world-consuming appetite?”

Don Wheeler of NJHEPS spoke with Norfleet about Gitenstein’s endorsement of the Climate Commitment.

“At (the College) there is terrific leadership,” Wheeler said. “Action is really possible now.”

“I’m very proud that you’re here today,” Norfleet said. “We at (the College) will do all we can do to ensure your success because we know our collective future depends on it.”

“In order for (Gitenstein) to follow through on this, it’s going to require that the students be vigilant, the students be vocal and the students keep the pressure on,” Wheeler said.

“We don’t have 43 years to reduce carbon by 80 percent,” Glick said. “We need a mass movement the likes of which this country has never seen.”

“All any of us has is our one life,” he said. “We have to use it.”

“The ability to affect social change takes nothing more than a vision and a voice,” Mathe said.

A performance by the Trentones finished off the rally.