Who does? Dan and I traveled down to Washington D.C. this past weekend to be part of Forward on Climate, the biggest climate rally in U.S. history. We joined over 40,000 people on the Mall near the Washington Monument, and then marched to the White House to make sure that our message was heard. Our message was serious, but we had a great time conveying it.
The Sierra Club, 350.org, and 160+ other organizations sponsored theevent, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip-Hop Caucus emceed the show. We heard from author and activist Bill McKibben, tribal leaders from British Columbia, Alberta, and Oklahoma, and even a member of the 1% (a billionaire investor) who came out to let us know that he saw the Keystone XL pipeline as a very bad investment. All spoke out strongly against the pipeline that is proposed for transporting oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast for refining and exporting. The quantity of oil estimated to be locked up in the tar sands is equal to all the oil that humanity has ever yet used – and if burned would raise the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from an already dangerous 400 ppm to a frightening 600 ppm.
“You are the antibodies kicking in as the planet starts to fight its fever,” Bill McKibben told the crowd as we gathered on the Mall. Many people referenced Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to the Mall 50 years ago and the crowds of people who came to fight for human equality. The difference, Rev. Yearwood noted, is that now “we are fighting for existence.” Indeed, climate change is already picking up steam – as recent extreme weather events keep reminding us – and the stakes are high. The opportunity to convince President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline is an opportunity to impede the burning of that dirty Alberta oil – and to give us time to get on track reducing our energy consumption and switching to renewables. Dr. King’s famous words ring true today: “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”
Climate change is a big deal to us at Real Pickles. Our work here is to strive to create a business that is sustainable and energy efficient, one that helps to build a strong and healthy community. Many of the principles on which we base our decisions are principles that also define the climate movement. Climate change is also central to the work I do outside of Real Pickles: managing communications and outreach for the Northeast Climate Science Center (NE CSC) based at UMass Amherst. The center is a federal-academic partnership that works to provide tools to natural resource managers as they plan for a future of changing climate. My two workplaces – Real Pickles and the NE CSC – span a broad spectrum between big picture and community scale action. In both, I think about the issues surrounding climate change on a daily basis and hope that our government will take action to prevent the worst, even as many citizens prepare for it. For these reasons, I was thrilled to join the 40,000+ protesters in Washington on Sunday.
“Hey Obama! We don’t want no climate drama!” – chant from the crowd
We felt very inspired by the attendance and the vibe at the rally. People traveled from all over the country to participate and show their support for a low-carbon future. Together, we shouted and we shook our fists. We danced to the drum line and the brass band. And we danced extra hard to keep warm – did I mention that it was a crisp 25 degrees with a brisk wind?
There were signs declaring that “fossil fuels are SO last century” and stickers against hydrofracking (“No fracking way!”). The tribal leaders spoke of the incredible pollution risk posed by the Keystone XL pipeline: “Oil always spills. It is not a question of if, but a question of when.” And there were numerous chants in favor of solar and wind power, with Dan and I occasionally adding in a good word for conservation as priority #1.
Turnout for the event far exceeded expectations, and we left feeling particularly proud of the Western Mass contingent: we heard that 5 or 6 full buses traveled to the rally from the Pioneer Valley, yeah! We took a bus down from Greenfield and were serenaded in the parking lot by activists unable to join us – with songs like CSN’s “Long Time Comin'” – before we boarded the bus and set on our way. Amidst the enormous crowd, we didn’t run into many Western Mass folks but did see our neighbor Alden, owner of the People’s Pint, toward the end of the rally. We were hoping he would have 2 pints of his Farmer Brown and a couple of pulled pork sandwiches to offer us, but alas – we’ll have to wait until we get back to Greenfield.
We’re including a few photos from our trip – we hope that you enjoy!