On Sunday, while President Obama played golf in the warm Florida sunshine with oil executives, approximately 50,000 brave souls gathered in subzero temperatures near the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. for the “Forward on Climate” rally. We almost didn’t go because it was SO cold and windy … but decided it was important to be there. The rally was touted as the largest climate rally in history and intended to show Obama and others with influence that people want to be heard on the issue of climate change. There was a lot of noise and signage about the Keystone XL pipeline project that is designed to transport oil from the tar sands in Canada to the oil refineries in Texas. The project is in its permitting process that the President must approve for it to proceed.
USA Today’s report noted, “President Obama said in his State of the Union Address that if lawmakers don’t act on climate change, he will. Protesters say they are holding him to his word.”
Perhaps unlike the images of the Occupy Wall Street protests, we saw all sorts of people from young to old, of many races, and from many locations. The climate movement is inclusive by nature simply because it affects everyone. Buses carried people from 28 U.S. states to the rally, coordinated by the Sierra Club and 350.org.
People in the movement are concerned that Obama will keep his promises about working on climate change, which he most recently repeated in this State of the Union address. The concern is that he didn’t do much in his first term, and that hanging out with Texas oil men reflects his true intentions. Medea Benjamin in AlterNet makes the point that golf itself is “environmentally destructive”, implying another contradictory choice for the President supposedly on the side of environmental preservation..
While today the focus is on Obama’s uncertain commitment, the real challenge to the climate change movement is much more comprehensive. Some still don’t believe the science. Others have vested interest in the status quo. And many simply are afraid so they don’t want to think about what could be happening to our earth, our home. What is needed the most is ongoing education and regular activism as seen on Sunday at the rally.
People need to learn about the issues and make decisions about their positions. And then, if they are so moved, they must speak out. Yes, we can make the small changes in our daily lives by recycling, driving less, and trying to use less electricity. However, it is the big changes that are more significant – one of the important changes to address climate change is to end our addiction to non-renewable energy. The science is conclusive, now it’s up to we the people to insist on the needed changes. The Forward on Climate rally participation of 50,000 would have been even higher on a warmer day. Perhaps the rally is a turning point for the climate movement, which has mostly relied upon science and reason until now. For the first time in its 120-year history, the Sierra Club board is allowing civil disobedience to fight the Tar Sands. The rally clearly represents what people can do, how their voices can be heard, and if progress can be made soon – just how important it can be to speak out.