Around 30 students from Georgia colleges donning green hard hats and holding “Green Jobs Now” signs rallied on the steps of the state capitol building yesterday to raise awareness for bills supporting renewable energy and sustainability.
“Invest in our future. Invest in Georgia’s future. Put Georgians back to work in green jobs — jobs that not only improve our state’s economy but also improve and protect our environment,” Ryan Jones, College senior and president of the Emory Environmental Alliance, said at the rally.
Metro Atlanta Students for Sustainability (MASS) organized the rally promoting House Bill 276 and Senate Bill 147.
“[MASS] is a very loose coalition of different Atlanta-area college students and campus environmental leaders who get together on a regular basis and use their collective resources to plan events or plug into events that are already happening,” Jones said.
House Bill 276 would “prohibit the purchase or use of coal extracted by mountaintop removal coal mining for the generation of electricity,” according to the Georgia General Assembly website.
This bill, along with Senate Bill 147, which would “provide for portfolio standard goals for renewable and recoverable energy and energy efficiency,” are pending in the Georgia Legislature.
“Senate Bill 147 will be a great bill to pass in Georgia because it will really drive the creation of a clean energy economy in the states. Over 50 percent of states currently have renewable portfolio standards on their books,” Jones said, which mandates that utilities get a certain amount of their energy from renewable sources.
The students, from colleges such as Agnes Scott College, Georgia Tech, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University and Emory, ended the rally with a “green” rendition to “Brr! It’s Cold in Here,” and sung, “It’s hot in here. There’s too much carbon in the atmosphere.”
Jones expressed doubt that House Bill 276 would get passed, as it is not projected to get through the preliminary committee for it to be heard by the House.
“But, if Georgia was to do this, Georgia could go from being a laggard in these areas to being one of the more progressive states ... in environmental opportunities,” Jones said. “This will involve weaning ourselves off coal, the source of 74 percent of our electricity last year.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
, the National Weather Channel’s “Earth Tomorrow,” Georgia Public Broadcasting and Atlanta Progressive News filmed the rally.
“Gaining momentum through media attention and just speaking up and introducing a minority opinion in the Georgia House was the end goal [of the bill’s sponsors] and something they were very successful in accomplishing,” Jones said. “That clears the way that much more for this bill to be passed next year or the year after.”
College senior Daniel Spiller, who organized the event, said passing these bills is important because mountaintop-removal coal mining, or blasting mountaintops into nearby valleys to reveal coal underneath, is damaging to the environment.
“Coal in general is a 19th-century solution to energy,” Spiller said. “We are interested in exposing the real costs and that renewable energy is actually feasible.”
After the rally, the students waited in the capital for the House and Senate to adjourn for lunch, but the Senate remained in session. Some student lobbyists were able to speak with legislators on the bills, but most senators were unavailable.
“We weren’t able to get quite as many legislators to come by and talk to us as we hoped,” Jones said.
The EEA is sponsoring another “green” initiative at PowerShift ‘09 in Washington, D.C., next weekend, where close to 30 Emory students will join a total of 10,000 people lobbying for national climate legislation and a strong international climate treaty, Jones said.
“It’s going to take a while to change opinions and change public opinion ... but that’s what we’re working towards,” Jones added.
— Contact Christina White