On Feb. 17, the largest climate-centered rally in U.S. history took place on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Approximately 40,000 people, including more than 40 Hokies, participated in the rally that was held after a march to the White House.
Activists took part in this event in order to urge President Obama to take action against climate change. The Sierra Club, 350.org and the Hip Hop Caucus, which are all working to help the country transition to renewable energy sources by promoting laws to limit greenhouse gas emissions, organized the rally.
“The overall theme (of the event) was to urge President Obama forward on the climate change issue and have him follow through on a lot of what he talked about in his inaugural speeches,” said the SGA's sustainability director, Drew Gallagher.
Speakers at the rally included Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune, along with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and many other leaders interested in the cause.
“I found the speakers before the march to be especially moving,” said Sam Welborn, a freshman chemical engineering and chemistry major who attended the event.
According to Gallagher, over half of the Virginia Tech students who traveled with him to D.C. were freshmen and sophomores from many different interest groups on campus.
Many attendees, such as Welborn and freshman architecture major Nevin Ounpuu-Adams, are members of the Environmental Coalition, which works toward a sustainable future at the local, state and national levels.
"I believe that combating climate change is the most important issue facing our generation; it is a matter of social justice, ensuring long term economic stability and preserving our Earth as we know it today," Ounpuu-Adams said.
The environmental awareness event was given a head start last week when several leaders and activists chained themselves to White House gates, including Brune. This proved to be the first act of civil disobedience committed by the Sierra Club in 120 years of public lobbying.
The issue at the forefront of the event was the Keystone XL pipeline disagreement. This export pipeline is at the height of controversy because its 1,700-mile route could cost the country millions of dollars, as well as harm the environment through which it runs.
“It’s a lightning rod issue for the event,” explained Gallagher. “This is where people interested in climate change draw the line.”
Last year, a group of about 15,000 activists gathered to speak to Obama about the same issue, which ended up delaying the Keystone XL pipeline's creation.
“The Keystone Pipeline is the worst thing that could happen to the environment,” Welborn said.
Sixteen other states held smaller corresponding rallies across the country this past weekend to raise local awareness of this issue.
"We have the power to take a stand for something we feel is important and show our government what it needs to do to serve its people," Ounpuu-Adams said. "It gives me hope for the greater climate movement and motivates me to continue working hard for it."
Follow this writer on Twitter @lesliemccrea