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By Glynn Wilson
WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 17 – During President’s Day weekend and in freezing temperatures and against a brutal wind, more than 35,000 activists marched from the Washington Monument around the White House to support immediate action to contain climate change due to global warming.
People from more than 30 states across the country whose land, homes and health are being threatened by the climate crisis, as well as students, scientists, indigenous community members and many others participated in what is being billed by sponsoring groups as “the largest climate rally in U.S. history.”
“For 25 years our government has basically ignored the climate crisis,” declared 350.org founder Bill McKibben, a Middlebury College professor who has led the fight for action on climate change for years. “Now, people in large numbers are finally demanding they get to work. We shouldn’t have to be here — science should have decided our course long ago. But it takes a movement to stand up to all that money.”
Rally participants are calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and put limits on dangerous carbon pollution from the nation’s dirtiest power plants.
“Mr. President, we have heard what you’ve said on climate; we have loved a lot of what you’ve said on climate,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Our question is: What will you do?”
For many of the rally leaders, the first test will be whether the president and Secretary of State John F. Kerry approve a construction permit for the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from the oil or tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. The energy-intensive methods needed to extract that crude emit more greenhouse gases than oil production methods from conventional reservoirs.
“Mr. President, you hold the pen and the executive power of hope in your hands,” Brune said. “Take out that pen, Mr. President, and write down the words ‘I reject the Keystone XL pipeline.’ ”
Much of President Obama’s legacy will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in fighting the climate crisis, according to the leaders of the rally, which also included First Nation tribes in Canada and Tom Steyer, an investment fund manager in California and major fundraiser for President Obama.
Rally participants are looking for him move forward on his recent State of the Union address declaration when he said, “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”
“Twenty years from now on President’s Day, people will want to know what the president did in the face of rising sea levels, record droughts and furious storms brought on by climate disruption,” Brune said. “President Obama holds in his hand a pen and the power to deliver on his promise of hope for our children. Today, we are asking him to use that pen to to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and ensure that this dirty, dangerous, export pipeline will never be built.”
The Keystone XL tar sands project would pipe some of the dirtiest oil on the planet through the breadbasket of America to be shipped overseas through the Gulf of Mexico.
“It would be a disaster for our climate, producing tar sands crude that kicks out two or three times as much carbon pollution as producing conventional crude oil,” according the Sierra Club’s press release on the event.
“The Yinka Dene Alliance of British Columbia is seeing the harm from climate change to our peoples and our waters,” said Chief Jacqueline Thomas, immediate past Chief of the Saik’uz First Nation in British Columbia and co-founder Yinka Dene Alliance (“People of the Earth”). “We see the threat of taking tar sands out of the Earth and bringing it through our territories and over our rivers. The harm being done to people in the tar sands region can no longer be Canada’s dirty secret. We don’t have the billions of dollars that industry has. But we do have our faith that people will do the right thing to protect Mother Earth. The Forward on Climate Rally shows that we are not alone in the fight to stop tar sands expansion and tackle climate change.”
The president has the authority and responsibility under the Clean Air Act to cut the amount of dangerous carbon pollution emitted from dirty power plants, rally participants insisted. Experts say these power plants are the biggest contributors to climate disruption, but are currently allowed to pollute without limits under current federal law and regulations.
“This President has the power to achieve the single biggest carbon reduction ever, by holding our biggest carbon polluters – dirty power plants – accountable for what they dump into the air,” said Van Jones, NRDC Trustee and President of Rebuild the Dream. “Cleaning up this pollution and using more clean energy will provide jobs to thousands of Americans, save families real money when it comes to electricity bills and, most important, will make a real difference in our health and the health of our children.”
Today’s historic rally to call for climate leadership reflects Americans’ recognition of the threats of climate change and their support for meaningful action now. Study after study has shown strong public support for climate solutions, including polling conducted by Public Policy Polling immediately after the President’s State of the Union address. That PPP poll found that 65 percent of Americans think that climate change is a serious problem and a substantial majority of Americans support President Obama using his authority to reduce its main cause, carbon pollution.
The “Forward on Climate” rally was organized by 350.org; the Sierra Club, the Hip Hop Caucus, the Natural Resources Defense Council and many other organizations.
The following leaders spoke at the rally:
* The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus President and CEO
* Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director
* Van Jones, NRDC Trustee and President of Rebuild the Dream
* Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Democratic Senator from Rhode Island
* Chief Jacqueline Thomas, Immediate past Chief of the Saik’uz First Nation in British Columbia and co-founder Yinka Dene Alliance
* Crystal Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree First Nation
* Maria T. Cardona, Latinovations Founder, Dewey Square Group Principal
* Bill McKibben, 350.org President, Scholar at Middlebury College
* Tom Steyer, Investor and founder of the Center for the Next Generation
The Sierra Club * 350.org * 350 Berks & Lehigh Valley Climate Action * Air Alliance Houston * Alaska Wilderness League * Alliance for Climate Education * Americans for Transit * Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment * The Azul Project * Backbone Campaign * Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream * Berks Gas Truth * Berkshire Environmental Action Team * Better Future Project * BOLD Nebraska * Catskill Mountainkeeper * Center for a New American Dream * Center for Biological Diversity * The Center for Food Safety * Center for Health, Environment & Justice * Center for International Environmental Law * Chesapeake Climate Action Network * Citizens Climate Lobby * Clean Water Action * Climate Action Network Canada * Climate Change Initiative of Howard County * ClimateMama * Climate Parents * Climate Reality Project * Coalition Against Nukes * ColorOfChange.org * Cool Planet Minnesota * The Council of Canadians * CREDO Action * Dakota Rural Action * Democracy for America * Dogwood Alliance * Dorothy Day Catholic Worker * Earth Day Network * Earth in Brackets * Earth Island Institute * Earth Month Network * Earth Quaker Action Team * Earthworks * EcoJive * Energy Action Coalition * Environment America * Environmental Action * Environmental Defence Canada * Environmental Media Association * Environment Maine * Environment Minnesota * Ethical Electric * Fast for the Earth * Fellowship of Reconciliation * Food and Water Watch * Forecast the Facts * ForestEthics * Friends of the Earth US * Georgia Climate Change Coalition * Global Community Monitor * Global Exchange * Global Kids, Inc. * Green America * GreenFaith * Green for All * Green Party of New York State * Greenpeace Canada * Greenpeace US * Green Schools Alliance * Green Zionist Alliance * Gulf Restoration Network * Hip Hop Caucus * Human Impacts Institute * Indigenous Environmental Network * Institute for Policy Studies, Sustainable Energy and Economy Network * Interdependence Movement * Interfaith Moral Action on Climate * Interfaith Power & Light * Interfaith Power & Light (MD.DC.NoVA) * International Forum on Globalization * International Rivers * International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative * Just Foreign Policy * Kids vs. Global Warming * League of Conservation Voters * League of Women Voters * League of Young Voters * Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns * MaynardCAN! * Massachusetts Climate Action Network * MN350 * Moms Clean Air Task Force * The Mothers Project: United for Sustainability * MoveOn.org * NAACP Youth and College Division * National Audubon Society * National Latino Coalition on Climate Change * National Nurses United * National Religious Coalition on Creation Care * National Wildlife Federation * Natural Resources Defense Council * Nebraska Farmers Union * New Jersey Environmental Lobby * New York City Audubon Society * New Yorkers Against Fracking * NYC Climate Coalition * North Texas Environmental Voters * Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition * Oil Change International * One Earth Productions: “Greedy Lying Bastards” * Organic Consumers Association * The Other 98% * Patagonia * Physicians for Social Responsibility * PlanIt4Planet * Progressives United * Public Citizen * Rebuild the Dream * Represent.Us * Renew America Roadtrip * Ridebuzz.org * River Network * Riverkeeper * Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition * Safe Climate Campaign * Sane Energy Project * SaveWithSunlight, Inc. * Seventh Generation * Sierra Club BC * Sierra Club Canada – Prairie Chapter * SLAB Watchdog * Sojourners: Faith in Action for Social Justice * Solidarity * Southern Alliance for Clean Energy * Southern Energy Network * Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Tribal Historic Preservation Office * Story of Stuff Project * Sungevity * SunHarvest Solar Company * Sunrun * Sustainable Man * SustainUS * SXSW Eco * Tar Sands Blockade * Toronto Climate Campaign * UK Tar Sands Network * Unitarian Universalist Association * Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth * United for Action * United for Peace and Justice * Unity College * USAction/TrueMajority * US Climate Action Network * Virginia NOW * Vermont Natural Resources Council * Washington Peace Center * Waterkeeper Alliance * WESPAC Foundation * The Wilderness Society * The William C. Velasquez Institute * Will Steger Foundation * Women Donors Network * Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus * World Can’t Wait * World Wildlife Fund * yerdle * Young Evangelicals for Climate Action
© 2014 – 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.