Capitol rally aims to educate

by Courtney Blanchard

A group of University students biked to the Capitol Saturday in support of the Global Warming Day of Action, an event celebrated nationwide in local gatherings.

About a dozen Minnesota Public Interest Research Group members joined the rally in St. Paul to listen to speakers, participate in workshops and spread awareness about global warming.

Kiera Coonan, a PSEO student from St. Paul and MPIRG member, said she thought the movement was gaining traction.

“For a while, (global warming) was this term that got thrown around like it was a conspiracy,” Coonan said.

As part of MPIRG’s environmental sustainability task force, Coonan visits the Capitol often. She and other students in MPIRG lobby for the Global Warming Mitigation Act, which proposes a cap-and-trade system for pollutant emissions in Minnesota.

Bridget Ulrich, a first-year chemical engineering student, said as youth get involved, the movement grows stronger.

“I think it’s the younger generation that’s a lot more aware that it will affect them in their lifetime, or their children’s lifetimes,” she said.

Students participated in different ways.

At a booth, Courtney Tchida, the program coordinator for the Cornercopia Student Organic Farm on the St. Paul campus, answered questions about where to buy local and organic foods.

For sustainability, she said, “it’s more important for foods to be local than organic.”

Local food travels fewer miles and cuts down on fuel consumption, Tchida said.

Tchida said the student farm is expanding. The Campus Club in Coffman Union has offered to buy some produce from the farm and students are preparing to raise chickens for eggs. They also hope to extend the farmer’s market on the Minneapolis campus into fall semester.

Tchida said the interest in local and organic products is growing, as evidenced by the heavy traffic at the rally.

“It’s been nonstop,” she said. “People want to know where to find local foods in their neighborhoods.”

Crowds also gathered in front of the stage, where U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and polar explorer Ann Bancroft spoke about global warming.

The gathering of environmentalists competed with another rally on the steps of the Capitol – the Taxpayers League of Minnesota protesting the DFL plan to raise taxes in the state.

The two rallies came at odds when an anti-tax proponent criticized tax increases that would support the “liberal agenda” from the steps of the Capitol.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, speaking at the same time on global warming, responded.

“I’m for investing, if that means taking some tax money to invest in Ö our country being energy-independent,” she said.

Jason and Amy Chorney of Columbia Heights attended the anti-tax rally and said they were disappointed to see the two rallies competing.

“I think it’s a little bit rude,” Amy Chorney said. To her, the loudspeakers from the global warming rally seemed like “an effort to squelch” the anti-tax rally, she said.

“We were shouting at the Capitol, not at them,” Jason Chorney said. “We want (Republican Gov. Tim) Pawlenty to know he should veto any tax hikes.”