Ralliers pack Capitol for Earth Day

Students joined citizens and policymakers to rally for clean energy and jobs.

Hundreds rally at the state Capitol to support sustainable energy Monday, April 22, 2013, in St. Paul. University students attended the rally in support of renewable energy bills.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Hundreds rally at the state Capitol to support sustainable energy Monday, April 22, 2013, in St. Paul. University students attended the rally in support of renewable energy bills.

Hailey Colwell

Dozens of students elbowed their way into the packed state Capitol rotunda Monday to rally for green jobs and bolster Earth Day spirit.

The students joined citizens and policymakers to hear Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, environmentalist Will Steger and other speakers call for support to raise state renewable energy standards and create jobs.

“Working on policy isn’t the most fun or sexy thing for students to do, but it’s really important,” said Greta Neubauer, a sophomore at Middlebury College in Vermont who is traveling the country to learn about the national fossil fuel divestment campaign.

Organizations from across the state launched the Minnesota Clean Energy and Jobs campaign earlier this year.

Campaigners encouraged legislators to raise the state’s renewable energy standard to 40 percent and solar energy standard to 10 percent by 2030 and save consumers money by making it easier to generate efficient and local power.

As a University of Minnesota senior, Racquel Maronde said she cares about the availability of green jobs in the future.

“This is a field that needs to grow,” she said.

Maronde said having students from so many different schools at the Capitol proves this is an issue that affects all young people.

“Seeing young faces at events like this get people’s attention and makes people realize that we do care and it does matter to us and our future,” University sophomore Katy Nordhagen said.

As Ellison addressed the crowd of environmentalists, his statements were met with roaring applause.

“The defining issue of our time is climate change,” Ellison said. “Not only us as human beings, but the species of this world cannot live with what we’re doing to it with fossil fuel.”

He urged attendees to retain the enthusiasm they showed at the rally to show government officials what clean energy means to them.

“We can talk about energy,” Ellsion said, “but the energy in this room can fuel the change we need.”

A cultural shift

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Mark Andrew said he participated in the first-ever Earth Day celebration in front of Coffman Union as a University student in 1970.

“All of these years later,” he said, “we’ve come so far and yet we have so far to go.”

Andrew said the enthusiasm behind the campaign was among the strongest he’d seen on Earth Day — and students greatly contributed to it.

“These are tomorrow’s leaders, and they are imbued with a sense of purpose around the environment,” he said. “To be able to come out and be a part of what has become a national tradition is a powerful statement that the environment will continue to be a priority in this generation.”

Augsburg College junior Ellie Klueger said she attended the event because some people fear clean energy will take away jobs.

She said it was refreshing to be surrounded by people who believe the two can go together, especially since many of them were students.

“It shows a great shift in our culture,” she said.

In addition to rallying, Augsburg freshman Hannah Withers said it’s important for students to talk to state representatives to voice their support of clean energy.

“We are a collective generation of people who really care about the future,” Withers said. “It doesn’t matter how old we are. We’re part of what’s happening now, and we’re part of what’s going to happen tomorrow.”