“Fossils are friends — not fuel,” read one of dozens of cardboard signs that Yale and Wesleyan students toted across the New Haven Green on Saturday for Moving Planet Day.
The event, whose purpose was to encourage Connecticut to move beyond fossil fuels, was a part of a larger effort organized by 350.org, an international nonprofit organization promoting grassroots awareness and action regarding climate change issues. Moving Planet Day, attended by close to 500 students and residents, included speeches, live music, a cycling demonstration promoting the everyday use of bikes for transportation and a rally.
A New Haven resident for four years, Justin Haaheim DIV ’10 organized the rally as a part of his role in 350 Connecticut. Haaheim said he believes in the grassroots movement and that the key to weaning the world off of fossil fuels is not wind or solar power, but rather “people power.”
Haaheim, who graduated with a degree in environmental ethics, said economics and environmentalism do not have to be traded off.
He added, “Whether we do it now, in two years, or in 20 years, our economy must move towards greener jobs.”
Named for the maximum sustainable parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 350.org held the rally to draw attention to the serious consequences of the current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – 392 parts per million. Moving Planet Day was global in its call to action, bringing together demonstrations in more than 175 countries.
The name of the organization itself embodies the transnational nature of climate change, because “anyone can understand the number 350,” said Julie Botnick ’14. Julie, along with dozens of other Yale students, represented the Yale Student Environmental Coalition at the rally and participated in the formation of an enormous human chain which spanned the green, spelling “350” for a photograph from a nearby tower.
Many New Haven businesses were also present as sponsors, including the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop.
Matthew Feiner, the owner of the bike shop and a 13-year New Haven resident, said that for him, the most significant part of the rally was a bike ride around downtown New Haven to encourage kids and commuters to use bicycles. The ride filled the streets around the green with cyclists for 15 minutes.
About 20 Wesleyan students traveled from Middletown, Conn., to New Haven for the rally.
Mannon Lefevre, a Weslyan sophomore, said she believes in the grassroots technique that is the foundation of 350.org. “America has forgotten that the power is in the people,” Lefevre added.
Historically, Connecticut has been at the forefront of environmental movements. Connecticut was the first state to ban the use of pesticides on school grounds and recently became the first state to ban BPA, with a law that takes effect this October.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. was also present at the 350.org event.