Greensboro protests for climate, environment

Bluegrass from the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Old Time Ensemble welcomed a modest, but enthusiastic, crowd of protestors to Greensboro’s central park on Saturday, April 29, for the Greensboro People’s Rally for Climate, Jobs and Justice.

“Most of our states, most of our cities, most of our businesses are on board for a more carbon neutral future,” said Justin Catanoso, program director of journalism at Wake Forest University, speaking to the crowd. “The biggest reason to be optimistic (on climate change) … is the local level.”

Coming at the end of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days, the rally was also a mark of defiance against what many attendees saw as a move towards damaging environmental policies.

“(Trump) is less of a threat than he thinks he is,” Catanoso told The Guilfordian. “Really and truly, (students) can make a difference … Everyone can make a difference.”

The rally was in support of the national climate rally being held the same day in Washington, D.C., and gathered speakers from several local higher education institutions, including Guilford College.

“We consciously built the speakers so we had room for Guilford College folks, UNCG and A&T,” said Bill McNeil, the impetus behind the rally.

Among the speakers was Tom Guthrie, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Guilford, who spoke about envisioning a new world. David Petree, director of sustainability at Guilford, also spoke, sharing some of the initiatives Guilford has implemented to be more sustainable.

“Guilford College has the lowest energy cost per square foot of any college in our region,” said Petree. “(And) in 2011, we started growing food in our community for the first time in nearly 70 years.”

Many of the rally organizers also came from local universities and colleges.

“It’s a loose group of individuals from a couple organizations,” said Kathryn Hood, ’76, outreach coordinator for the Friends Center. “I guess most of the people on the organizing committee have higher education connections.”

Hood helped organize the rally and tabled for Operation Bed Roll, an initiative to turn plastic bags into strips and crochet them into bedrolls for people experiencing homelessness.

Several other organizers also had Guilford connections, including Vicki Foust, former visiting instructor of business management at Guilford and research associate at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

“I’ve always been involved with sustainability,” said Foust. “I was on the original sustainability committee at Guilford.”

Local college students also attended the rally.

“Just being passionate about the environment, of course I had to be here,” said Myla Baker, a sophomore at A&T.

Themes of local action and hope ran through many of the talks, including the final one, given by Reverend Nelson Johnson of Faith Community Church, about the decision to put solar panels on the roof of their church.

“If we are to have a future, clean energy is the way to that future,” said Johnson. “I am glad we are here to end the separation between environmental justice and social justice.”

He advised the protestors, “Walk together and don’t get worried … because there is light on the other side of this darkness.”

Johnson then joined the UNCG Old Time Ensemble and the assembled protestors in a closing chorus of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”