More than 100 Eckerd College students plan to join thousands of other activists from around the country Feb. 17 in Washington, D.C., to protest the Keystone XL pipeline. Again.
The protest, known as the Forward on Climate Rally, is anticipated to be the largest ever on climate change.
This is the second year in a row that students will participate in the EC to DC movement, which is made up of members of the Sustainability Club, as well as other environmentally conscious students. While the movement is not officially a club and does not have a president, it is led by a group of students including Alexandra Hogan, Lauren Horning and Junior Julia Calder.
After students traveled to the nation’s capital in 2012 to participate in the first protest, the single largest group to attend at 250 strong, student support for a second trip was easily found.
Funding for the cost of van rentals, gasoline and lodging was gathered from a variety of sources, with much coming from friends and families of those involved.
At a senate meeting Feb. 10, Horning, Hogan and Calder detailed the finances of the trip when requesting the contribution of funds from the ECOS budget.
They met with the Executive Council the prior week after a request to ICV directed them to ECOS. They explained to the senators that the expected rental and gas cost for each of the 10 vans would be $700, totaling $7,000.
Lodging was offered at two separate churches in the D.C. area, with the first extending an offer for 30 students to stay for free and the second requesting $5 from each person staying there. A total lodging expenditure of up to $500 was expected.
The funds acquired up to this point were a combination of $30 deposits from students, $50 deposits from non-students, a $21 fundraising total and donations from family, friends and clubs, including $2,000 from the Sierra Club.
The donations from clubs created a stir among the senators. While some supported the concept of clubs supporting a cause, others were concerned that the members of the club aren’t being accurately represented. “This has never been done before, or if it has, it hasn’t been done by multiple clubs,” said O’Donnell. “The issue becomes [whether supporting the cause] is representative of all the club’s members.”
The senate voted to approve a contribution of $500 to the trip.
Environmentalists around the country have made various arguments against the construction of the pipeline, which would extend from oil sands in Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Some are concerned about the damage to the environment that may result from the oil sands extraction process, which is more difficult and less energy efficient than extraction from other sources. Others are concerned about habitat destruction and land degradation along the pipeline; the project was delayed last year after citizens in Nebraska demanded that it be rerouted around important aquifers reports the New York Times. More fear that the pipeline will feed the country’s dependency on fossil fuels, and inhibit the development of cleaner energy sources.
Yet some see the pipeline as an opportunity to get people excited about protesting against the use of fossil fuels in general. As Daniel Yergin, author of “The Prize” and Chairman of Information Handling Services (IHS) told the New York Times, “the pipeline is a convenient device for fighting a larger battle.”
This attitude is an important aspect of the EC to DC movement. “Our hope is that…through this Keystone pipeline, we can get kids excited about fighting against fossil fuels,” said Junior Julia Calder, “ and then we can do other events on campus and off campus.”
Calder went on to say that “we should practice what we preach,” claiming that a move away from fossil fuels is particularly important to Eckerd, where students like to think of themselves as attending an environmentally sustainable school.
While environmentalist arguments against the pipeline seem strong in the face of recent weather disasters like Superstorm Sandy and last year’s record setting drought, some are not convinced.
Freshman Brian Jenkins feels that the economic benefits of the pipeline offset the environmental costs. “There is strong evidence to suggest that the pipeline will have a strong positive impact on unemployment and U.S energy independence,” said Jenkins.
In his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Daniel Yergin expanded on the geopolitical benefits of the development of North American energy sources, such as natural gas and oil sands. “It is sobering to consider that, without this increase in oil output…the sanctions on Iranian oil exports might well have failed,” said Yergin in an interview with IHS, referring to the sanctions that have been a key leveraging tool in nuclear negotiations with Iran.
While many environmentalists are optimistic in light of the president’s comments in his inaugural address, the case for the pipeline is clearly compelling to many Americans, but especially those at Eckerd College.