Protests in D.C. draw double the expected crowd – and a show of solidarity in Monterey County.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
The huge “Forward On Climate” protest in Washington, D.C. on Sunday inspired a handful of Monterey County residents to travel cross-country to demand presidential action on the climate, including stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline. Meanwhile a solidarity rally of 100 sign-wavers at Window on the Bay in Monterey was among dozens held worldwide. The youthful and diverse crowds on both coasts reflected a growing movement.
“This is the largest rally ever to support and challenge the president so that his commitment to climate action meets the scale of the problem,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune told the crowd in D.C. The protest, sponsored by 350.org, NRDC, the Sierra Club, the HipHop Caucus and Native leaders from the U.S. and Canada, attracted over 35,000 – nearly twice what organizers hoped.
On both coasts, it wasn’t just aging hippies. Busloads of college students descended on the National Mall, and Monterey organizers were pleased to see new faces from CSU Monterey Bay and the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
“Young people get it,” says Bill McKibben, head of 350.org, pointing out that he is the only person over 30 in his organization.
Even vacationers joined in. “I am heartened that people knew what was going on in D.C. and sought out a solidarity rally,” says local organizer Karen Araujo, of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula (UUCMP). “People are very aware of climate change.”
The Monterey gathering was organized by the Social Justice Faith In Action Committee of the UUCMP, the Sierra Club’s Ventana Chapter and the Monterey chapter of the Progressive Democrats. “This issue crosses political parties and religious affiliations,” Araujo says.
In Washington, indigenous women who live in the path of the tar sands projects led the parade and spoke eloquently. Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Yinka Dene Alliance in British Columbia essentially thanked the pipelines for galvanizing a new cooperation. “I’ve never seen Native and white work together before,” she says.
Retired marine biologists John and Vicki Pearse of Pacific Grove went to D.C., as did activists from Sustainable P.G., Carmel Valley and Big Sur. Pearse says he’s “really concerned. We’re taking buried carbon and putting it into the atmosphere. We’re causing the sixth mass extinction on Earth.”
He points out the recent unexpected presence of blue whales feeding on krill in Monterey Bay, in the middle of gray whale season, is probably due to changed storm patterns, and that we’re already seeing ocean acidification.
Asked what message he had for people living along the coast, Bill McKibben responds: “Ask people in the Rockaways. I think they’d have something to say about stronger storms and rising sea levels.”
Speakers in Washington and placards in Monterey made it clear that stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is how they want the President to start reversing global warming.
“The Keystone XL pipeline is business as usual,” warns Bay Area investor Tom Steyer. “I’ve been looking at billion dollar investments for decades and I assure you, Keystone is a bad investment.”
Along Del Monte Avenue, signs focused on the connections between global warming, green jobs, and “getting off petroleum.”
Placards warning about the dangers of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from sedimentary rock deposits like the vast one underneath Monterey County, were visible throughout the D.C. crowd. Pennsylvanians already dealing with polluted water warned that “Once you frack, you can never go back.”
Artist, naturalist and former Pacific Grove poet-in-residence Kate Spencer heads up Lizardfish Studios. Find her at www.katespencer.com