Maine students rally for climate change in Augusta

Students from across Maine participated in the Generation Climate Rising march on April 11. The event, which took place in Augusta, was a protest against Governor Paul LePage’s environmental policy, specifically in regards to fossil fuels.

Maine Students for Climate Justice (MSCJ) organized the rally that spanned from downtown Augusta to the front of the Blaine house, where LePage lives.
According to their Facebook page, MSCJ is a “student-run coalition, bringing youth voices to the struggle towards ecological sustainability and social justice,” and has had many participants from Bates College, Bowdoin College, the University of Maine, Unity College and those hailing from Mayflower Hill.

Ester Topolarova ’17, one of eight marchers from the College, commented on the importance of student activism in an email correspondence, saying “my position as a student gives me the time and energy to be able to fight for a better world where we do not need to worry about the increasing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.”

While LePage believes, according to Maine Public Broadcasting, that natural gas is a clean and cheap energy option, opponents of fossil fuels argue that the methane content in natural gas makes it an unsustainable solution for climate change. Therefore, the Generation Climate Rising rally urged Maine officials to not build any new fossil fuel infrastructure, including pipelines.

Michael Butler, a senior at Bowdoin and active member of MSCJ, said to the Bates Student, “While [LePage] may have the privilege to deny it, others in Maine are suffering from warming waters and record snowfall. The burden of climate change is not even—it falls disproportionately on indigenous groups, the elderly, the young, and those who rely on Maine’s natural resources for income.”

Topolarova also emphasized the inequality related to climate change: “the thing that Colby could learn from this event is that it is important to bring forward the narratives of the people who are most affected, without tokenizing them but recognizing their reality as an act of solidarity.”

An estimated 300 high school and college students came out on Saturday to show such solidarity and encourage change in the Maine legislature. Among the participants were Bates Energy Action Movement (BEAM) and Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA), who brought a combined 100 students, according to each school’s newspaper reports.

The rally remained peaceful throughout the day, though police did escort the marchers on their route to the State house and LePage’s residence.
Topolarova noted that “the vibe was energetic and very friendly,” adding “it felt like a community.”

While the Mayflower Hill campus uses virtually no oil, many small colleges are still far from their goals of carbon-neutrality. However, Saturday’s protest, which is suspected to have been the largest youth-led climate rally in Maine’s history, will likely put pressure on both institutions and the government to review their energy policies.

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