Led by Oak Park and River Forest High School students, about 100 people marched down Oak Park Avenue on Saturday afternoon to raise awareness about global climate change.

The event was part of what was called a national day of action, sponsored by the Web site www.350.org. Similar events were scheduled for other U.S. cities and abroad. Saturday’s Oak Park event was organized by OPRF’s Environmental Club. A rally took place at Fifth Third Bank’s parking lot near Oak Park Avenue and Harrison Street following the march. Village and Cook County officials spoke at the rally, including Village President David Pope, State Sen. Don Harmon (39th) and Cook County Commissioner Earlean Collins (1st).

Dan Knickelbein, president of the OPRF Environmental Club, said his group was looking for an activity to organize around and discovered the 350.org online activist community. According to the site, its name derives from the numerical amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The number 350 is considered by scientists as the safe upper limit for CO2 in the atmosphere. Currently, CO2 concentrations are above 350 parts per million, an amount that, if sustained, could further harm the planet, the site states.

“It’s about trying to get the word out and raising awareness, not just among students but everyone on the planet, said Knickelbein.

About a dozen of the club’s more than 30 members marched Saturday. Staying with the 350 theme, the students spoke to the crowd during the rally, each member citing one of 35 reasons to support environmental activism and efforts to address climate change.

Pope also talked about the need to reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, and thanked the students for their activism. In acknowledging the students who organized Saturday’s event, Harmon encouraged them continue their activism as adults.

“If I were as active as you guys, I would have amounted to something more in life,” joked the state senator from Oak Park.

Saturday’s march began at noon near OPRF in the school’s mall at Lake Street and East Avenue. The procession traveled west on Lake Street to Oak Park Avenue and then south from there. Along the route, the marchers shouted for drivers to honk their car horns for climate change awareness. Many did.

The event also included the announcement by the village that two new environmentally friendly I-Go cars will be available for Oak Park drivers.

The Chicago-based I-Go car-sharing program serves Chicago and the suburbs, providing vehicles for its paid members to use while also reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

The number of I-Go cars in the village is now six with the recent additions.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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