In what has been billed the largest demonstration on climate change ever, at least in the Untied States, 50,000 activists marched in the nation’s capitol Sunday demanding action on climate change—now. The National Memo covered the rally but sadly, the mainstream media barely noticed.
The “Forward on Climate” rally was organized by Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and Bill McKibben, president of 350.org, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of the Hip Hop Caucus. It was intended to build momentum on climate change after President Obama’s call for action in his State of the Union Address.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), co-chair of the Climate Change Task Force, gave an impassioned speech, saying it is time to help President Obama win this fight on climate change.
“We are going to have the president’s back, and he is going to have our back. And we’re going to look down the hallways of history to those children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and we’re going to say to them, ‘yes we did.’ We are going to say to them, ‘this was our time and these were our voices and this was our choice and by God, yes we did.’”
Organizer Bill McKibben told reporters the rally was intended to drum up support for the president to block the Keystone pipeline:
“This movement has been building for a long time...it is everybody’s desire to give the president the support he needs to block this Keystone pipeline. The time for him to stand up now. He’s been saying good things about climate change, but the easiest, simplest, purest action he could take is to not build this long fuse to one of the biggest carbon bombs on earth.”
“When he signs that executive order rejecting the Keystone pipeline, not only will he be on the right side of history, but the winning side,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
A key Obama supporter and former White House “green jobs czar,” Van Jones said in a pre-rally interview that the burgeoning anti-pipeline movement would not be bought off with other initiatives, like tougher EPA rules or more great speeches.
“I think we should take the president at his word, but make him honor his word,” Jones said. “This pipeline, if it goes through—the first thing that the pipeline runs over is the credibility of the president of the United States. That’s the first thing it runs over. He said that he’s not going to let us be a generation that cooks the earth.”
The obstacle preventing action on climate change is Congress. Most Republicans and a few Democrats are rabid supporters of the Keystone pipeline claiming, falsely, that it will create tens of thousands of jobs. Most Republicans in Congress either deny climate change entirely, or deny that man caused it or can fix it. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) summed up the GOP position saying “We can’t control the weather.”
Secretary of State, John Kerry, makes a recommendation to the president on the pipeline and many feel he will nix the pipeline. The final decision is Obama’s unless Congress intervenes.
The president already angered environmental groups like the ones organizing this rally when he approved construction of the southern leg of the pipeline last year. That leg does not facilitate additional tar sands oil from Canada; it relieves congestion in pipelines that converge in Oklahoma carrying oil from domestic sources to Gulf refineries.
Unfortunately it will take a ground swell in the districts of Congressmen who deny science to bring about any real climate change legislation. It remains to be seen if that will happen.