Environmental Activists Come Together for Central PA People’s Climate Day


Saturday  morning, community members and environmental activists across central PA organized in downtown State College for the Central PA People’s Climate Day, a non-partisan event that aimed to connect the community with organizations, people and businesses seeking to improve life, in general, and address climate change issues, in particular. A number of speakers, demonstrations and a variety of activities took place.

This event served as a sister event to the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C., a nonpartisan demonstration in support of climate justice and action. It was organized by Penn State groups EcoAction and Fossil Free.

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Arriving at the event, a line of canopies sat along 127 South Fraser Street near Memorial Field. 

One of the members in charge of the information booth, Kristina Guthrie, spoke on her desire to make a difference. “We’re here today so that environmental activists and conversation groups, as well as progressive political leaders, can come together today and network with one another so that we can maintain a strong outreach committee [in order to] make incredible changes to our environment and to our Pennsylvania policies.” 

Another member of the booth noted that there were other events going around as well. Specifically, the event stretched past the Children’s Area at St. Andrew’s and also hit Welsh Plaza at the Municipal Building.

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There were a number of environmental organizations and activists, some including ClearWater Conservancy, We Are For Science, Centre County Democratic Committee, Friends and Farmers, Fair Districts PA, Small Towns Rising, and Bernie Cantorna for DA.

One activist, Jessica O’Hara, believes we need a constitutional amendment to eliminate gerrymandering in the state of Pennsylvania. “Fair Districts is supporting a change in the way the PA does redistricting. We want to change it from party politics to a citizen commission. To do this, we want to change the PA constitution to install a citizen’s commission to handle redistricting so that politicians are no longer drawing their own districts and picking their own voters.”

She went on to note that Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 722, two bills aiming to reform legislation, will come up to a referendum in 2020. Further, “this is important because it will dampen the effect of party politics and will also create districts that are more compact, contiguous, make more sense, and are responsive to the needs of the constituents,” she said.

Steve Zarit, another member of Fair Districts PA, showed me a powerful illustration of what Pennsylvania’s districts look like. It appeared that districts were stretched along a rangy splotch of territory for no clear reason. It truly reinforced the idea that we need fairer redistricting. Not only that, he explained how gerrymandering can affect those who deny climate change. Thus, fairer districts may secondarily help mitigate climate change.

Lastly, Amy Cohen from Small Towns Rising, an organization that trains and informs new activists “in the fight for inclusion,” is here to help and train new activists. “I’m here today with [Small Towns Rising] which provides training materials, workshops, and actual trainings to [those] who are new to activism and resistance.”

She went on to say that “a lot of people are feeling pretty upset and angry and wanting to make change in their communities, and [they] are trying new things for the first time, [so] these materials I am creating and running are designed to support [them] in those efforts.”

For example, a tip sheet she created, among other information sheets, listed ways to sustain activism. Knowing your goals, choosing activities that you enjoy, working with others, celebrating successes and victories, and doing your work from a place of love were among some helpful tips for up and coming activists.

Photo Credit: Madison Starr | The Underground 

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Marco Ciappetta

Marco Ciappetta is a junior Psychology, Political Science major from the "City of Champions", a.k.a. Pittsburgh. Let's go Pens. He also enjoys writing about the facts. You can tweet him @ciamarco5, or email him at mciappetta5@gmail.com.