March For A Solution To Climate Chaos: Sustainable, Renewable Passion

BY ON February 19, 2013

Depending on who is counting, about 35,000 to 50,000 people showed up in a freezing cold and windy Washington D.C. for the largest climate march in history on Sunday, February 17. It was one of the most inspiring events I have ever attended, and I’ve been trying to sort out why, exactly–beyond the incredible contact buzz of the crowds, the flags, the banners, the costumes.

Climate march participants braving cold weather

Climate march participants holding signs

 

Forward on Climate marchers around the Washington Monument

Some terrific speeches: the head of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune (whose wife Mary–with swaddled infant–and five year old daughter looked on lovingly); our articulate, dedicated Rhode Island Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, who is heading up a bicameral task force on climate solutions; impassioned, intelligent, actress Rosari0 Dawson–whose mother, Isabelle Celeste, is also a powerhouse; Tom Steyer, who, having made billions in hedge fund land, is now dedicating himself to fighting climate change. I am hoping he will be our new Energy Secretary, but he might be able to do more good outside of government.

I think it is a tactical error to focus so much attention on the Keystone pipeline–though opening up those tar sands is an awful prospect. We’d be better off investing more in clean fuel. But, as we used to say in Texas: You gotta dance with the one that brung ya. Bill McKibben has organized the only meaningful climate action we have seen in many years. It is far from “Game Over” if Obama okays the pipeline. But Steyer made a good point: “For the last 30 years I’ve been a professional investor and I’ve been looking at billion-dollar investments for decades and I’m here to tell you one thing: The Keystone pipeline is not a good investment.”

Young man holding sign at Washington climate march

So do marches matter? You bet. Here’s what this one demonstrated:

1. Sustainable, renewable passion. People care about climate change. I was struck by the range of participants–from college kids all the way up to grandparents, and lots of families with children. And people convey passion. Urgency. That’s what we need now. Urgency.

Statue of Liberty model at Forward on Climate rally

2. Marches mean being out in the open. This is in sharp contrast to the stealth tactics of deniers. You don’t see them marching. Instead, they are meticulously, cynically seeding disinformation and sowing confusion wherever they can, from the websites of major newspapers to small ones across the globe. I was struck by how little money Donor’s Trust has actually spent over the last decade on their denier campaign: $400 million. They have used it well; their impact has been outsized.

But deniers have also had the unwitting collusion of major media, in their silence–as well as the big environmental organizations, suffering from post cap ‘em depression; they essentially stopped talking about climate change for years after the failure of cap and trade. That silence has cost us a great deal of progress. So now we have to move with urgency.

Note: All of us should demand of our media: stop posting denier rubbish in your comment sections–unless you note, each and every time, what is factually incorrect. Otherwise, you are participating in the disinformation campaign, and it is harming your integrity, and our democracy.

Families marching at Forward on Climate rally in Washington, DC

3. Marches provide political cover. Many politicians, including the president, remarkably (as you would think he is so powerful that he would simply do the right thing), are so wary of climate politics that they need to know that citizens want this issue addressed. “Show me the movement” means “give me reasons to take a tough stand.” Votes count.

Climate March protester in Washington, DC on February 17, 2013

4. Now, it’s personal. Extreme, unpredictable weather–a result of climate change–has touched all of our lives, across the country. This march reminds everyone: climate change is affecting people as well as polar bears.

Protest sign at climate march in Washington, DC

And one final note. I was in a panic about attending this march, due to my fear of crowds. But I was reminded of something important. If you tell your friends, this is what I’m worried about, so please take care–most of the time (excepting the occasional knucklehead) they come through. I never once felt lost. And that leads me to one of the most comforting things about this march: the sense of solidarity. If we can keep rallying the kind of energy (sustainable, renewable passion) around fighting climate change, we will have a shot at success.

Photos: Dominique Browning

MORE RALLY PHOTOS HERE

TELL PRESIDENT OBAMA TO MOVE FORWARD ON CLIMATE CHANGE

TOPICS: Activism, Climate Change, Renewable Energy

  • http://www.facebook.com/greta.gaard Greta Gaard

    What a beautiful photo essay, Dominque! I too was at the rally, with MN350.Org, and felt the same exuberance and hope. You give voice to our skepticism and our renewed faith in the power of massive mobilizations to send a strong message–thank you!

  • BEAVERMEADOW

    MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE!!! Corporations are not on our side. Their power is blocking life & LIBERTY On this planet… THIS SHOULD BE OUR 1ST PRIORITY BECAUSE…$=POWER $=VOICE
    we will have no voice until………….

    You and I both know that big corporations use their massive amounts of cash to undermine the kind of change we need in Washington and in our state. Unfortunately, it’s getting a lot worse.

    A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission” now allows corporations to spend unlimited money to influence elections.

    I am joining Public Citizen in working to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s disastrous “Citizens United” ruling, take democracy off the auction block, and preserve constitutional rights for people not corporations.

    Please go to this link and join me in signing up to help get our state to join eleven others who have already called for an amendment: http://action.citizen.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=12134

  • Jp

    I’m with Sierra Club for 30 years. This was the most exciting demonstration ever! I encourage everyone to go to President Obama’s website and contact him. Let him know you were there!!! and why!

  • http://www.facebook.com/william.brummett.7 William Brummett

    GREAT JOB PEOPLE

  • Barb Holcomb

    Check out amendment to US Constitution that was presented to House of Representatives on Feb.11. It is “We The People Amendment”. It addresses “Citizens United”, corporate personhood and campaign finance reform. All of those issues impact the response to climate change and almost every other part of our lives. Check out movetoamend.org or wethepeopleamendment.org It needs everyone’s support.

  • Kate

    Rallies are fabulous. It is a chance for visual and vocal group speak. Tweeting, emailing and facebook are great, but rallies may be the best.

  • Kate

    I loved Obama’s State of the Union address. I would like Congress to join the President to work climate change, renewable energy, and elimination of assault weapons and 30 bullet clips. I want a reasonable path to citizenship. I am far more alarmed by the bigots than I am of “aliens”. Except for Native Americans and Mexicans, we are all “aliens”. “Aliens” is so hostile. How about migrants.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leslie.carmel.5 Leslie Carmel

    Hi! Dominique,

    I Agree With Greta Gaard. The Photo Essay Was Beautiful.

    I Wish I Could Have Been There, But I Couldn’t Because Of Financial Reasons. I Hope You Understand. I’m Happy You Had A Big Turnout Though. I Think That Was Wonderful!

    I Will Keep Doing What I Can Do, And That’s Signing Petitions, And Telling My Family And Friends About MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE!

    ALL THE BEST TO YOU,
    MS. L. CARMEL