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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Madison community members participate in Earth Day sustainability rally

The Associated Students of Madison's Sustainability Committee executed an Earth Day March on Saturday. Participants included students, government officials and local community members. They marched from Library Mall to the Capitol building.

The march aimed to not only celebrate our planet, but also look deeper into our relationship with it. The rally was preceded by countless other events throughout the week.

UW-Madison sophomore Gabby Cooper remarked on the different events that took place prior to the rally.

“They’ve had Earth Day events for every day leading up to Earth Day, and each one was a different theme like shelter or water, and celebrated each aspect of our Earth, and how we can empower sustainability,” Cooper explained.

Participants were in good spirit — the band walked ahead of marchers and played joyous tunes as individuals watching along the sidewalk were greeted with wishes of a happy Earth Day. 

Upon reaching the Capitol, the group repeated a series of chants geared towards environmental preservation and change.

“No more coal, no more oil, keep that carbon in the soil,” the crowd chanted in unison. “Ain’t no power like the power of the people because the power of the people don’t stop.”

Following the chants, the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) former Sustainability Chair Jacob Breit introduced the rally’s first of many speakers — Mayor of Madison Satya Rhodes-Conway. 

Rhodes-Conway urged participants to continue their push for sustainability outside the Capitol.

“We only have seven years to save the planet. No pressure, folks,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We have to be here in the streets, but we have to also be here, in this building behind me, where decisions are made about what powers our future.”

Rhodes-Conway used the rally as an opportunity to promote Madison’s efforts to become a greener city.

“Madison is really proud to be a platinum biking city,” Rhodes-Conway noted. “We’re a gold walking city, and after 30 years of talking about it, this January, we broke ground on Madison’s first bus rapid transit system.”

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The buses, which Rhodes-Conway described as soon-to-be all-electric, will help aid Madison’s goals to obtain what she referred to as “the clean energy future that we want in Madison.” 

Rhodes-Conway was not alone in her desire for a greener future. Dozens of students participated on Saturday afternoon to support the sustainability movement.

Fourth year student and Co-Executive Director of Slow Food UW Angelina Mico discussed the significance of this rally for students in particular. 

“As students, we are about to go up into our careers,” Mico explained. “This event is a symbol of how we as a next generation of leaders and decision makers need to be keeping the environment in the back of our minds, as we make decisions in whatever career and profession we might be entering into.”

Students learned about the rally in various ways. For some, like Cooper, being a part of sustainability clubs and organizations kept them in the loop.

“I’m a part of 350 Wisconsin, which is a climate organization based in Madison, and they’ve really been working with the sustainability organization here to create this beautiful march,” Cooper said. 

For others, social media played a significant role in hearing about Saturday’s event.

“I heard about it through Instagram, just people promoting it through their social media, which I also think is really important, even if you don’t attend — just promoting these events to spread the word about it,” UW-Madison sophomore Sam August said. 

Regardless of how participants learned about the Earth Day event, attendees intended to leave a similar impact.

“After this event is over, I want to hear people say, ‘I wish I was there, I regret that I wasn’t there, I want to be there next year,’” Mico remarked. “The people that organized this event might not be here next year. We’re going to need people to step up, and if they really truly care about the issues we’re talking about, they need to really initiate that effort to make sure sustainability longevity continues.” 

Rep. Melissa Ratcliff closed her speech by sharing a simple mindset she wanted participants to carry with them following the Earth Day celebrations.

“Earth Day is everyday. Do what you can, and keep doing it,” Ratcliff said to the crowd.

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