On Sunday, February 17, fifty-five people of all ages, who’d come together by bus from all across Florida, were in Washington, D.C., to join the massive rally of approximately 40,000 people calling on President Obama to move America Forward on Climate in 2013. Rally organizers—the Sierra Club, 350.org and the Hip Hop Caucus—with their 168 partners, including the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, support President Obama’s call to reduce America’s carbon pollution from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas:
“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. . . . we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late. . . . I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change. . . . But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.” — from President Obama’s State of the Union address on February 22, 2013
In his second inaugural address, Obama said that we “as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time—not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift,” and we as Floridians were here to assure him of our support for his promises on climate—and to make our expectations clear.
Our busload participants represented Citizens Climate Lobby, several college environmental clubs, the Occupy movement, Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, ReThink Energy Florida, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Sierra Club and other climate-concerned groups and citizens. Some riders are retired, others still students; we work as teachers, tutors, analysts, homemakers, advocates, broadcasters, writers, builders, entrepreneurs; some are looking for work, one is a Vietnam veteran dealing still with the war’s consequences; our number includes biologists and high school students. We come from all across Florida; WE REPRESENT FLORIDA.
Many voices we heard—whether in the crowd, from the stage or while riding on the bus—echoed the sentiments of the rally participants well. Here are a few candid comments that I was able to capture:
- John X.: We heard inspirational speakers who had the good sense to sharpen and keep their talks short — much appreciated before hypothermia got you. We carried the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice banner along the entire route with a very energetic, positive and friendly crowd. . . . When we finally got all 55 on the bus for return trek, Tom Larson, bus coordinator — usually measured and restrained, exhorted the riders, “now we have to return home and start seriously kicking ass.” He got motivated for sure, as did, I believe, most everyone who experienced the event. The feeling was “we’ll be back with a million soon.” The movement is a-movin’, fast.
- Carol: READY TO KICK ASS IN SOUTH FLORIDA!
- Abhaya: It was such a powerful experience AND a springboard for future collaboration among all of us.
- Lizzie: It was a memorable and inspiring event, hopefully effective.
- Brian: I had a blast on our excursion to D.C. and look forward to participating in more activities.
- Elizabeth: I’m so glad I went, though I hope not to have another long bus ride in the near future. . . . Just called the White House, my two senators and my representative, about why I went and how we really have no choice but to get off fossil fuels if we wish the planet to continue to support life even remotely resembling the life it supports today.
- Pam: It was really a special event. . . . The rally was exciting and fun.
- Janet: Walking with 40,000+ kindred spirits letting our voices be heard regarding the greatest challenge of our time was a fine way to spend my birthday—and my son joined us.
- Karen: It was an amazing trip and I met so many great people; that was a bonus.
We encountered and spoke to people from all across the country at the rally and while we walked—all were glad to be there. Over 150 busloads came from 30 states, delivering at least 8,000 to the assembly, to join the throngs that came otherwise from across the country.
We heard inspiring leaders at the rally from all across the climate movement. 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said it best from the stage in DC: “All I’ve ever wanted to see is a mass movement stop climate change, and now I’ve seen it.” Click here for a fine 4-minute Forward on Climate Rally video from 350.0rg.
After the rally, McKibben wrote: “There were many high points: Van Jones declaring that Keystone is the only presidential decision anyone will care about in 20 years; billionaire investor Tom Steyer laying out why it’s a bad investment; Chief Jackie Thomas explaining the toll that the tar sands are taking on her neighbors, and promising that they would never allow a tar sands pipeline west to the Pacific.”
Among other notables also there: Crystal Lameman, another leader of the indigenous people of Canada, and US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. The Rally was MC’d by Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus. Plus, there was lots of support from the Sierra Club, with its leader, Michael Brune.
Several of these leaders of the climate movement earlier in the week added their personal voices by intentionally engaging in civil disobedience (getting arrested on charges of blocking the sidewalk in front of the White House). Click here to look at a thoughtful video on the Civil Disobedience action, which includes explanation of why these people stood firm and tall for climate protection.
News media across the country and across the world covered the rally, lending distance and depth, amplifying these voices (although too many channels were mute—no coverage was printed in Jacksonville, Florida) A roundup of the media coverage of the rally is here and is impressively long.
The Sierra Club has launched the Obama Climate and Clean Energy Legacy Campaign, which includes its support of the Forward on Climate Rally and other events nationwide that make up 100 days of action from the Inauguration to Earth Day. You can learn more and get involved at www.StandWithThePlanet.com.
Many thanks to the organizers of the rally, the bus coordinators and for the generous financial support provided by the Sierra Club that made the bus affordable and possible.