biggest climate rally ever
February 18, 2013
We raised our voices and our fists, we jumped up and down, we hoisted our signs, we heard bits of a lot of speeches blown around by winds, we cheered when the sun spilled some warming rays on us. And finally, gratefully we moved our feet, marching yesterday afternoon to the White House to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and take courageous action on climate change.
In our fight for a living planet, we looked soooooo beautiful, Bill McKibben of 350.org told us.
“This is the last minute of the last quarter of the biggest, most important game humanity has ever played,” Van Jones, president of Rebuild the Dream, told the estimated 35,000 or 40,000 or even 50,000 at the Forward on Climate rally yesterday. And he told the president: “All the good that you have done, all the good you can imagine doing will be wiped out by floods, by fires, by superstorms if you fail to act now to deal with this crisis that is a gun pointed at the head of the future.”
Turns out the president was in Florida playing golf, but we hope he got the message.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, told us twice to shift left to accommodate the growing crowd and said this rally was as important or more so than the civil rights marches of 50 years ago: “They were fighting for equality, but we are fighting for existence.”
A lot of gray hair was on our bus from Columbia, and yet one young man, looking for a job and with fresh certifications to be a welder, said he refuses to work at fracking sites or on pipelines.
Once at the rally, the average age got demonstrably younger. We talked to a young couple from Shepherdstown, W.Va, who live near where coal companies are basting off mountaintops to get at the coal. The father, with a baby strapped to his chest, said they are trying to bring solar power to their state. He gave us a scrap of paper with their website.
We talked to young students from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., one of whom had forgotten her gloves. We gave her some hand warmers.
We saw great rally signs: We must rise faster than the seas. … The last tree on Easter Island was cut by a Republican. … Separation of oil and state. … We’re in a climate hole; stop digging. … Modern technology owes ecology an apology. … Cook organic, not the planet. … Survival > oil. … I’m here on behalf of Aldo Leopold and he’s pissed. … Record profits for fossil fuels paid for with our future. … Wind is sexy, solar is hot. … Do not destroy the land of the free and the home of the brave. … Ecocide: also known as economic growth. … Fossil Fools. That last sign was in the hands of someone with a tiny drilling rig for a hat.
The Rosedale N.Y. Improvement Association band played on, with “ban fracking” stickers on the tuba and French horn.
Someone dressed up as a Lorax; others came disguised as polar bears .
Speaking to the crowd, Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation in British Columbia, mother of four, grandmother of one, said the “oil will spill” from the tar sands pipeline, as it has already in Kalamazoo River and other places. “We have not given our consent to this project,” she said. She encouraged Obama to not “put industry’s interest above human interest.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said we must “look down the hallways of history. They know this is our time, this is our choice, this is our moment, and they know we were made for this moment … We are going to have the president’s back, and he is going to have our back.”
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, one of 48 activists arrested at the White House in an act of disobedience last week, said, “Mr. President, we have heard what you said on climate. We have loved a lot of what you have said on climate. But, Mr. President, our question is what will you do? … Mr. President, you hold a pen and the executive power of hope in your hands. Take out that pen Mr. President. Write down the words, ‘I reject the keystone XL pipeline.’ Mr. President, join us.”
Brune said he is optimistic, despite the wildfires, the 1,000-mile wide October hurricane, the severe drought. “I believe we will prevail, ” he said. A decade or so ago, he said, in a “gift-wrapped present” to their fossil fuels buddies, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, offered a plan to build 200 coal-fired plants across the country. One proposed plant was 50 miles south of Chicago. Sierra Club and other activists had never challenged a coal plant before, but they “organized, filled town rallies and shut that plant down.” Then activists did the same in Wisconsin, Florida, Kentucky and New Mexico. “Together as a movement, we have defeated, we have shut down more than 300 proposed and existing coal-fired power plants plant,” he said.
The U.S. wind industry doubled in last 4 years, Brune said, and our solar industry has grown by factor of five. “The fossil fuel barons, their lawyers, their spin doctors, their lobbyists, they are losing their grip on our country’s psyche. The spell has been broken.”