Students, community rally for Climate Action

The Students For Environmental Concerns, or SECS, held a rally Saturday at the Illini Union to promote the International Day of Climate Action.

The event is held around the world in over 181 different countries for people to come together and learn more about how they can help the earth’s climate, according to the day’s Web site, 350.org. The event began in New Zealand and officially ended with the sunset in Hawaii, completing a worldwide day of support.

Around 100-plus students and community members turned up to participate.

“It was great to see this many people come out and support us,” said Matt Rundquist, junior in ACES and SECS group member. “Our goal is to make the University of Illinois a beacon for other universities to promote green energy.”

SECS is the biggest and oldest environmental group on campus, with this year being their 40th year in existence, Rundquist said. The rally was the first official campus event in the student group’s history, but Rundquist said SECS intends for it to occur annually.

The rally was meant to inform people that Earth’s atmosphere stands at 390 parts per million of carbon dioxide, Rundquist said. It needs to be below 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide to prevent Earth’s natural temperature from rising, he added.

The rally included a limbo contest to symbolize that lowering Earth’s temperature is possible.

The group invited three speakers to the rally to address the crowd: Eric Snodgrass, professor in atmospheric sciences, State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, and Parker Laubach, sophomore in Engineering who is aiding efforts to convince the University to implement wind energy on campus.

Jakobsson discussed details of the Clean Cars Act, a bill in the Illinois House of Representatives that would allow the Enivronmental Protection Agency to set new emission standards for vehicles in 2011.

Laubach questioned the University’s inaction on the Wind Turbine Project, an initiative which would generate wind energy and potentially save money on campus. Laubach said Bureau Valley High School, a high school in northern Illinois, has a population of 450 students but raises enough money for one 660 kilowatt wind turbine. He said he wondered why the University could not obtain a turbine when a small high school could do so.

Snodgrass said the general perception of global warming is incorrect and peoples’ interest in the subject is dwindling. However, he said the 15 most industrialized countries in the world are going to meet in Copenhagen, Denmark in December to discuss the status of the world’s climate and what needs to be done to make it better.

“The concern is not the change in the weather, it is the rapid severe change that is occurring,” Snodgrass said. “We need to educate about climate change.”