A smoothie-making bicycle, tabletop displays, a band and two Democratic legislators converged on Abele Quadrangle Sunday afternoon for the Environmental Alliance’s EarthFest.

The theme of this year’s event was “Our Planet at a Crossroads,” explained first-year Elliott Davis, who is involved with the Environmental Alliance. The event featured interactive games, information booths and speeches by two of Durham’s legislative representatives—U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield and State Sen. Mike Woodard, Trinity '81 and a business analyst in the University's financial services division.

“Your theme of 'Our Planet is at a Crossroads' is very fitting. Environmental protection is under great attack today,” Butterfield said. “Our vital protections are at risk—protections to our health and our air, our water and our communities are all at risk. And you know that as well as I do. We are most certainly at a crossroads. That’s why our job is not done, our commitment cannot waiver.”

Butterfield said he was renewing his pledge to fight against climate change and for environmental justice, explaining that sustainability and climate change are two of the most “challenging issues of our time.”

He noted that North Carolina is a large producer of coal ash and that the negative effects of storing it disproportionately affect low-income, minority communities. Legislatively, he said it is important to protect President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

“We are inundated with news about fracking, factory farming, sewage sludge, coal ash, droughts, flooding and countless other threats to nature,” the congressman said. “Because of this and other factors associated with climate change, we can anticipate threats to our health. That is a fact—that is a proven fact.”

Woodard—whom Butterfield called “a dynamic leader in the North Carolina Senate”—also addressedTrump's proposed retraction of some Obama-era environmental policies.

He specifically took on a potential action that would undo regulations requiring car manufacturers to raise the efficiency of vehicles to 55 miles per gallon by 2025 and also critiqued Trump’s intention to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent.

“These are commonsense regulations that would provide clean air, energy independence and would save consumers money when they are buying gas at their local station,” Woodard said.

He noted that he finds the state of the environment to be in “great peril,” and admonished the North Carolina House of Representatives for taking only 73 seconds to pass “egregious legislation” this past week that limits the ability of property owners to seek legal redress against hog-waste producers. But Woodard noted with pride that North Carolina is the second-largest producer of solar power in the country—behind only California. Like Butterfield, he encouraged students to take action to protect the environment.

“To the extent you can, with the upcoming exams and papers and all the things that you’ve got going on, try to redouble your efforts,” he said. “I look at the groups that are here and see the incredible work that you’re doing. We need you now, more than ever, to step up as young leaders in our community.”

Some of the groups represented at the event included the Duke Lemur Center, the Carolina Tiger Rescue, Duke Recreation and Physical Education and the sponsors—the Duke Environmental Alliance—which ran several of the interactive displays.

“We were excited to come out today because people don't always realize our direct connection to conservation in Madagascar,” said Megan McGrath, the education programs manager for the Lemur Center.

Davis said that EarthFest was the Alliance’s main event of the semester following their Eco-Olympics in the Fall, and he estimated that approximately 100 people had come by through the first half of the event.

Senior Isaac Rubin, director of communications for the Environmental Alliance, worked the group’s table on climate refugees, which featured an interactive game with facts about people displaced by climate change and natural disasters.

“I think the general reaction to the game so far has been one of surprise and shock,” Rubin said. “People know that climate change is a problem, but people are still a little bit ignorant about the substantive impacts it’s going to have on human beings and what that means for the world.”