Along with my older daughter, I spent yesterday at the Climate Rally in Washington D.C.
We drove from Richmond VA in the morning, took the Metro in from northern Virginia, and arrived with the early arrivals at 11:00 a.m. When the program started at noon, We were only around 200 feel from the stage, so we got to see speeches from Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Bill McKibben, and Van Jones. We followed that with a walk up to the White House. Barack was not there of course; he was vacationing.
I suppose it was a lot of people. I heard the figure 35,000. I figure I will knock off 5000 and call it 30,000. I think it was a fairly impressive achievement to get that kind of a turnout considering that it was 35 degrees fahrenheit with a strong breeze. I was dressed for it but I was still uncomfortable for the first two hours of standing in the shivering crowd.
Why were we there? We were trying to remind the current president that he made some very high flying language on climate change in his state of the union chat. He now has a chance to back up that language by refusing to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to come down from the Canadian tar sands to the gulf coast. Van Jones noted, quite rightly, that the first thing the pipeline will run over will be Obama's credibility.
THe attitude of Obama's supporters has often been described by conservatives as hero worship, a slobbering love affair. But that's not what it looks like when you attend one of these large environmental demonstrations. One of the chants during the march on Sunday was "hey Obama, we don't want no climate drama." In other words, please match your words with action. Nice to hear from you that global warming exists. But if it exists, it makes no sense for you to permit the construction of the pipeline.
In the big picture, it occurred to me that many of the college and high school students marching with me yesterday had not been born yet in 1989, when James Hansen spoke to a Congressional Committee, explaining global warming to them and stating that it could be expected to become much worse. I date my commitment to fighting global warming from that event. Over the following 24 years, it has indeed gotten worse, closely following Hansen's predicted temperature curve.
Like the fight for civil rights, this is a long term, slow motion struggle. But it is even more important. That fight, which took many decades, was about equality, as one of yesterday's speakers stated. Today's fight is about continued existence, as he also reminded us. It is hard to get American voters engaged in a struggle that promises them no immediate benefit. The only benefit to slowing and reversing climate change over the course of this century would not be for us, but will be for our great grandchildren. it's a tough sell! since global warming is not going away, it is however a struggle that will inevitably result in a political win for the team of which I am a member.
But the question is, will that victory come too late to mean anything?