40,000 in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.–I drove from Memphis to Washington with three others and joined the 40,000-plus people there on Feb. 17 for the Forward on Climate Change rally, the biggest ever held on climate change in this country. Yes, the 15-hour drive was long. Yes, it was super cold. Yes, we stood for a long time during the rally and were glad to begin marching to restore feeling in our frozen toes. But yes, we were glad and proud to be there.
I attended my first protest in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s, returning many times to protest U.S. involvement in wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, then to demonstrate against our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Those marches were protests. We were expressing our outrage at our government for such unforgiveable acts of aggression. It felt good to join so many others who were just as angry and ashamed.
The climate change rally was not like the anti-war protests. We were there for something more than to protest and to show our indignation. We were there knowing that President Obama could decide not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. We were there knowing that President Obama has urged us as citizens to “make him” do what is right. We were there knowing that, as Van Jones said, this decision could define him. We were there because we are hopeful that he will do what is right and begin legislating to save our planet rather than to save oil executives.
Then we learned that President Obama was not at the White House on that day. He was in Florida, golfing with oil executives. So… we shall see.
In Los Angeles
Los Angeles–On Feb. 17, over 1,000 environmental activists gathered at La Placita of historic Olvera Street to agitate to stop the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline is to run over 2,000 miles from Canada through the U.S. to the Gulf Coast. There, this dirtiest of oil will be shipped to the Asian market.
The protest was begun by Canadian First Nations people as the Idle No More Movement to stop the mining of tar. It was part of a massive demonstration the same day in Washington, D.C.
Participants included the Pachamama Alliance, Native American women drummers, Aztec dancers, Food and Water Watch, Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), Sea Shepherds, Alliance for Climate Education, Green Party, League of Women Voters, Children from Union Elementary Schools Carbon Science Club, students, ML King Coalition, Occupy people, various Marxist groups, and many others. Noticeably missing were large labor unions.
Some of the many signs read “tar sands = extinction,” “carbon-oil-gas = death,” “tax carbon,” and “Wanted: Stephen Harper and Trans Canada for genocide, stupidity, terrorism and greed.” ”
We marched for a mile to City Hall, where speakers addressed the crowd with a PA system powered by solar panels.
Speakers ranged from Lakota Chief Phil Lane, Jr., who said we do not want our sacred land destroyed and thanked Stephen Harper for awakening a sleeping giant, to Congressman Henry Waxman, who urged President Obama to stop Keystone, noting there were 25 separate climate crises in 2011 and 2012. We heard from climate scientists who told of worsening severe weather; women of color speaking of how, because of racism, pollution impacts minorities more severely; a homeowner impacted by fracking who said their house used to be in paradise, now it’s in hell; a longtime anti-nuclear activist who warned of the dangers of the aging San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant in Southern California; and several poets, including a Black woman who recited her poem on trash that goes into a can but doesn’t go away, asking, “How many landfills can we fill?” There was also a large cloth petition for us all to sign which will be sent to President Obama.
The rally ended with everyone joining in a traditional Indigenous round dance to the beat of the women drummers.
Global warming and climate change are caused by expanding capitalist production, consuming massive amounts of oil, coal, methane gas, gasoline, timber (logging), etc. As the News & Letters article “Climate Chaos and Capitalism” (Sept.-Oct. 2012) stated: “Until we can abolish capital, we will have no chance of avoiding climate chaos.”
In San Francisco
San Francisco–On Feb. 17 there was a Climate Forward rally at Justin Herman Plaza protesting carbon emissions, the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and other threats to the environment. Before the rally, as some 6,000 marchers completely encircled a nearby large city block containing State Department offices, dozens of Indigenous people held a prayer vigil. One of them, a young First Nation woman from Canada, told the crowd about the Idle No More movement started by four women (see “Idle No More,”Jan.-Feb. 2013 News & Letters).