Protesters Call For Toomey To Act On Climate Change

Photo credit: Justin Sweitzer

Following the president’s decision to pull out of Paris accord on climate change, rage ensued as the United States prepares to assume the position as one of only three nations not in the agreementthe other two being Nicaragua and Syria. The decision sparked anger across the nation, as Trump signaled that his administration has little concern for the long-term fate of the planet compared to short-term gains in the U.S. economy.

Constituents of Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey funneled that outrage at a Sunday night gathering at the senator’s Allentown office to voice the importance and severity of climate change, with hopes that the Pennsylvania junior senator will hear constituent concerns and act upon them.

After a period of chants and displays of signage along Cedar Crest Boulevard, climate activists gathered for a brief rally led by protest organizer Karen Feridun of Berks Gas Truth – who also heads 100% PA, a campaign dedicated to renewable, sustainable and inclusive climate action.

“It was a monstrous decision, we all know that, but we knew he was going to do it,” Feridun said of Trump’s decision. “What we saw Thursday was a symptom of a problem in addition to being a problem unto itself. That means we have a federal government who really isn’t our champion on this. In fact, in their view, people like Toomey, people like Trump, view us as externalities, as some business plan. That’s all we are to them. That’s all future generations are to them.”

Feridun stressed the importance of forming coalitions and showing elected leaders just how many people believe in a sustainable and renewable future for the country and the planet.

“It’s up to us to make sure we’re going to do for ourselves what our government won’t do for us,” Feridun said. “We can’t be on fossil fuels in a hundred years, we just can’t. When Harrisburg won’t do it for us, when Washington won’t do it for us, we have to do it for ourselves.”

Tara Zrinski, a candidate for Northampton County Council, was a strong voice throughout the protest and said she will fight for environmental policies throughout Northampton and Lehigh counties. She stressed the importance of electing environmental candidates into office.

“This is what democracy looks like,” Zrinski said. “We need to create solutions, and we’re only going to do that if we show people what democracy looks like.”

Kim Schaffer, who represented the Lehigh Valley chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, urged protesters to call their local representatives to act on climate change, giving out the numbers of Reps. Charlie Dent and Matt Cartwright, as well as Sens. Bob Casey and Toomey.

Schaffer particularly pointed out that constituents reach out to convince Dent to join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.

“That’s where we think, in Congress, the next important action is going to come from,” Schaffer said.

The climate activists made sure to leave messages for Toomey as well, covering his office doors in Post-It notes encouraging the senator to act on climate issues. Feridun also will be leaving Toomey’s office with a copy of Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change, to try to convince Toomey, a devout Catholic, of the dire importance of acting on such issues.

Perhaps most powerful was Feridun’s rallying cry to activists in the face of government deregulation and inaction on environmental issues.

“When they say roll back, we say fight back,” she said.

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About Justin Sweitzer 8 Articles
Justin Sweitzer is a journalist and Kutztown University student. He is a student fellow for Raging Chicken Press and also covers local government in Northampton County for The Home News. He can be reached via email at justin@rcpress.org and through Twitter at @justin_sweitzer.