“THE PIPELINE WILL FAIL! OUR PLANET IS NOT FOR SALE!”
“HEY! OBAMA! WE DON’T NEED NO CLIMATE DRAMA!”
…These are just some of the many (and loud!) chants that could be heard from the thousands of people who attended Sunday’s Forward On Climate (FOC) rally in Washington, D.C. With estimates that varied from 35,000 to 50,000 protesters marching from the National Mall to the White House, and back, advocates and supporters — many of whom traveled from the farthest ends of the nation — showed the President and the rest of Washington the urgency of their feelings about the Keystone Pipeline and other flashpoints on energy and climate.
Marchers equipped with signs and make-shift windmills, dressed in vivid costumes, and armed with megaphones paraded the streets, making their voices loud and clear with chants to stop the Keystone pipeline and to stop hydrofracking in the U.S.
Distance seemed to be no deterrent for many protesters; the movement and their voices were too important. Dick Harmon, retiree, Sierra Club member, and former Brooklynite who now resides in Portland, Oregon, was one of these distant travelers. When asked why he felt it was so important for him to travel so many miles for the FOC rally, Harmon replied, “I have grandchildren.” Like many supporters, Harmon feels that the movement to stop the Keystone pipeline — and other environmentally-based movements like it — is “less about us, and more about our future generations.”
Leaders and organizers of the rally also made their voices heard; most notable were that of 350.org’s creator and director, Bill McKibben, and Sierra Club executive director, Michael Brune. Appreciating the strong turnout, McKibben congratulated the event as “the biggest climate rally by far in U.S. history” and that “the most fateful battle in human history is finally joined and will be fought together!” Brune, like many of the other speakers at the event, placed heavy pressure on President Obama, stating, “Mr. President, we’ve heard what you have said on climate – and we have loved a lot of what you have said on climate – but Mr. President, what will you do?”
Former ‘Green Jobs’ adviser to Obama, Van Jones, went on next to say to the President, “All the good that you have done, all the good that you could imagine doing, will be wiped out by floods, by fires, and by superstorms if you fail to act now to deal with this crisis!”
Additional speakers during the rally included actress Rosario Dawson; Canadian indigenous Chief of the Saik’uz First Nation, Jacqueline Thomas; U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse; and billionaire philanthropist and environmentalist, Thomas Steyer…all of whom who added compelling, heartfelt speeches.
As development for the pipeline draws near, all eyes are on the President and how he chooses to use his executive power. Will Obama respond to Forward On Climate’s message and steer the U.S. away from our dependency on fossil fuels, propelling us into a cleaner, safer, more environmentally sound future? Or will he give in to the lobbyists and the power of the big-oil companies, embracing the “business-as-usual” plan of action?
In a stirring summation, Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island implored the crowd to continue to organize, and directed everyone to a website petition:
“Your voices can make a difference, and your voices need to make a difference…Add your voice as a citizen member of the Climate Change Task Force…sign up at wakeuptoclimatechange.com and make your voice heard!”
All photos taken by Jason J. Diaz