Moving to a greener tomorrow
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Author: Leila Blair, Seattle Central College student
I marched forward on our 3.5-mile trek to the tip of March Point in Anacortes Washington, and as I turned to see those that followed me, I saw a sea of bodies clad in red, holding sunflowers and flying salmon swimming upstream. There was an orca whale swimming among us as well as a giant salmon, all of us marching past oil refineries owned by Shell and Tesoro, “two of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.”
Break Free was an international movement that was centered on the weekend of May 13th-16th, 2016. Events took place in thirteen countries on six continents. Tens of thousands of people came together to fight against the use of fossil fuels, and I was lucky enough to join that movement for their Saturday demonstration in Anacortes.
Approximately 3,000 people marched the 3.5 miles to March Point where we all congregated for the following hours. There were a little over half a dozen speakers ranging from political leaders to the chiefs of the local tribes. We all came from different backgrounds and heritages, and yet it was clear that the only chance we had at combating climate change is to band together. Regardless of our differences and our histories, we must come together with the common goal to make our planet safe and livable for our great-grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren. If we don’t, who will?
I actually had to leave the rally early because my health was quickly deteriorating due to poor air quality near the oil refineries. After approximately five hours on March Point my throat was burning and I had chest pains. When I began to feel light headed, I knew it was time for me to leave. That evening and throughout the next day, my asthma returned. After six months of not having an asthma attack, I was shocked that the minimal time I spent there would compromise my ability to breathe. I still can’t believe that there are hundreds and thousands of people that are forced to breathe this air every day, and I cannot imagine the health effects that could be caused with long-term exposure to this air.
I have always been an advocate for climate justice, but I have felt overwhelmed in the past on how to tackle this issue. How can one person make a change on a crisis of this scale? After going to this event, and taking part in a movement of this size, I am hopeful that lasting change can be made when people show up, stand together, and fight for a better life for our grandchildren and our planet. By the time I left March Point and Anacortes that day I was already searching for other ways I could stay involved and continue to fight for the continuation of a healthy and livable planet for my generation, and all those to follow.
North, Central, and South Seattle Colleges celebrated Earth Day 2016 in their own ways. At North and Central campuses, they both held "Earth Day Symposium" events where local, regional, and national sustainability-minded non-profits and organizations set up table displays and representatives were there to talk with students, faculty, and staff. Both symposiums also featured presentations that informed attendees how they can be a little greener and how they can get more involved with sustainability projects. South campus screened the short film, "A Village Called Versailles," and hosted several local and regional organizations as panelists to discuss the themes of social justice and equity that arise in the film. Panelists included representatives from Rainier Valley Corps, US Environmental Protection Agency, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, Rainier Beach Action Coalition, and Rainier Beach Moving Forward. All in all, there were lots of good conversations, smiles, and inspiration on how we can all be more sustainable.