From the March-April 2013 issue of News & Letters:
Chicago–“Hey! Obama! We don’t want your climate drama!” we chanted at the Forward on Climate rally here on Feb. 17. There were at least 20 rallies that day, with 40,000 people in Washington, D.C. Most of the 400 here were college students brought out by Chicago Youth Climate Coalition (CYCC).
Foremost was stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. If approved by President Obama, it would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, greatly adding to the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Speakers also warned of the dangers of fracking for natural gas, and told of campaigns by students at several Chicago colleges to make their schools divest from oil, coal and gas companies.
These rallies were preceded by civil disobedience on Feb. 13, when 48 people were arrested for handcuffing themselves to the White House fence.
NO! TO TAR SANDS MINING
A key demand was for Obama to deny a permit to the tar sands pipeline. Many protesters were disturbed by the ambivalence of Obama’s State of the Union address, noted for his ringing words:
“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change….We can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science–and act before it’s too late.”
But not only did his specific proposals amount to far less than what is needed to steer the world away from catastrophic warming, he even boasted in the same speech about increasing fossil fuel production, which drives climate change. He promised, “My administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.” And of course he advocated a “market-based solution,” as if capitalism is not a fundamental part of the problem.
RALLY PARTICIPANTS SPEAK
I was really disappointed in Obama’s remarks about fracking, which we pretend is “natural” gas. I’m a member of CYCC, a coalition of students from around the city. I’m a student at Roosevelt University. At RU we have an organization called Rise, based on building student activist networks. Climate change is connected to economic rights issues, immigration rights issues, anti-poverty issues. Our main goal is to mobilize youth because we really only have a few more years to take serious climate action.
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Today we fight for the ultimate goal for rights to clean air, water, and existence. Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization fought for over ten years on a campaign to close the Fisk coal-fired power plant. With lots of grassroots organizations and widespread partnerships, we won. This is a huge victory. But the two coal plants of Illinois are only representative of the environmental devastation we see all over the world. We can change the world for the better.
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I’m a member of Rise and CYCC. If Obama is truly going to address climate change, he cannot rely on fracking. I come from a low-income background. Much of environmental pollution and climate change effects are in low-income, minority-based communities. Those are people who don’t necessarily have a voice.
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After reading articles about climate change, I was moved to get active. I didn’t know anything about the Keystone pipeline before I came out today. I want to learn more about what I can do and different movements that are afoot. All the storms we’ve been having are making climate change more urgent. Reading about it made me comprehend how big it is and how much immediate action is required.
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I am part of a generation that will either receive the catastrophic effects of climate change or will come together in order to fight for our future. I want a future that isn’t compromised by huge fossil fuel companies. I want a society that puts my friends and family before profit. I’m a member of CYCC, a lovely group of dedicated students with a shared dedication to ending fossil fuel consumption and attaining a just and sustainable future. We know that our efforts can make a difference worldwide. We will not stand by while fossil fuel companies wreak havoc on our planet and our health. We cannot wait for politicians and Big Oil to shape our future. We need to join across borders and backgrounds, genders and ethnicities, to reshape our world. We need to fight for all the children who may live in a world completely different from the world we grew up in.