Students from Unity College and residents from around Waldo County traveled to Washington, D.C., Feb. 17 to call on President Barack Obama to address climate change during his second term in office.

Rally participants gathered on the Washington National Mall as part of the “Forward on Climate” event, which was estimated to have drawn a crowd of about 40,0000 people from around the country.

The rally was hosted by a number of organizations, including the Sierra Club and 350.org.

While the intent of the rally was to call on Obama to follow through on statements he made during his inaugural speech concerning climate change, the event also served as an opportunity for environmental activists to draw public attention to their cause.

Many of the attendees of the weekend rally traveled to Washington specifically to raise awareness about the impact to the environment of proposed projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline.

The project would involve constructing a 2,000-mile pipeline to transport tar sands oils from Canada to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

David Maar, who attended the rally with fellow Unity College students, said the possible construction of a pipeline that could run from Montreal to Portland was a concern.

Maar, who attended a rally in Portland regarding the possible construction of a tar sands pipeline in the state, said he was concerned with the impact on local fisheries, as well as other natural resources.

“Maine is my home away from home,” he said.

It was that drive to protect what he loves about Maine that took Maar to Washington, where he was able to meet with other attendees to discuss ways states and municipalities can decrease their dependency on fossil fuels.

Like Maar, Samantha Longo, who is also attending Unity College, said the rally presented an opportunity for her to meet with other students to talk about ways to decrease the consumption of fossil fuels.

Longo, who has attended other rallies in Washington, but never on the scale of the “Forward on Climate” event, said she felt the rally would help move conversations forward regarding climate change and its effect on the Earth.

“I felt really empowered afterwards,” she said. “I’m really glad I went.”

While many of the “Forward on Climate” rally attendees were hopeful that serious conversations could begin about ways to reduce carbon pollution, other participants, like Peter Baldwin of Brooks, realized addressing climate change would require everyone’s help.

Baldwin noted that the country’s infrastructure relies heavily on oil and other fossil fuels to function, so simply cutting off use of those resources immediately isn’t an option. As an example, Baldwin explained how people rely on supermarkets to supply them with food.

“You can’t just stop all the cars and trucks. People would starve,” Baldwin said.

To address that issue, Baldwin said, people need to feel comfortable talking about climate change and ways to reduce carbon pollution, which he said the rally helped to achieve by making the issue more public.

Bringing the issue of climate change into the public spotlight is an issue that Belfast resident Corliss Davis cited in comments he emailed to the Republican Journal after attending the rally.

“I believe that we need to turn the corner from the fuels of the past and aggressively work to develop the energy sources of the future,” Davis wrote in an email. “It felt good to be doing something more public towards this end, rather than just signing endless email petitions and walking around a chilly house in the dark.”

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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