Monday, February 18, 2013

President Obama, Did You Hear Us?: Let's Move #ForwardOnClimate!

Elizabeth Shope, Advocate, Washington, D.C.

Today, I joined a crowd of more than 35,000 people including thousands of NRDC members and activists at the #ForwardOnClimate rally calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, set carbon standards for dirty power plants, and move forward with clean energy solutions.

Forward on Climate rally Shope and NRDC sign credit Sung Hwang.JPG Photo credit: Sung Hwang, NRDC.

Hip Hop Caucus President & CEO Reverend Lennox Yearwood MCed the speaker program, and kept the crowd pumped up despite the frigid temperatures and strong, icy winds. Before setting out on our march around the White House, we heard from inspiring speakers including NRDC Trustee and Green for All Founder Van Jones; Chief Jacqueline Thomas, Immediate past Chief of the Saik'uz First Nation in British Columbia and co-founder of the Yinka Dene Alliance; Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation; Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse; Latinovations Founder and Dewey Squre Group Principal Maria Cardona; Tom Steyer, Investor and founder of the Center for the Next Generation; Mike Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director; and President Bill McKibben.

Van Jones reminded us why all 35,000 of us were here at this rally: "You elected this President," he told us. "You made history... he needs to give you a chance to have a future. Stop being chumps." In addition to calling on us to continue fighting for our future, he called on President Obama to make the right decision, saying "all the good work you've done will be wiped away if you approve Keystone XL," and that approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be like jabbing a dirty needle into the U.S.

Crystal Lameman shared with us how tar sands development is affecting her community, and how industry is attempting to greenwash their dirty business. "Don't be fooled by their idea of what reclamation is," she said. "We can't eat money and we can't drink oil."

Keystone XL isn't the only tar sands pipeline currently under consideration that would facilitate an expansion of the tar sands - it is one of several. Chief Jacqueline Thomas spoke to us about Enbridge's Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline to British Columbia and the associated tanker traffic that would put the lands and waters of many First Nations at risk. More than 100 First Nations along the pipeline and tanker route have said their lands and waters are not for sale-that they will not allow the Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline or similar tar sands projects to cross their lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon. Chief Jacqueline Thomas's speech highlighted the importance of protecting our lands and waters: "If we destroy the Earth, we destroy ourselves."

Maria Cardona's speech brought home the urgency of not just rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and curbing tar sands extraction, but of regulating our dirty power plants: "For millions of Americans, particularly minorities, clean air regulations are life-saving regulations."

We're going to have to keep fighting, though, and keep urging Congress and President Obama to stand up to polluters. As Senator Whitehouse told us, "Congress is sleepwalking through this crisis, and it's time to wake up... We're going to have the president's back and he's going to have our back... Let us be unshakeable."

Today, we were not just unshakeable but unified - young people and old people, Nebraska ranchers, members of First Nations and Native American tribes, environmental groups, labor activists, doctors and nurses, entrepreneurs, investors, and many more.

We marched. We danced to the marching bands that mixed themselves in with the crowds. We chanted. (And I have a favorite new chant from today: "Hey Obama don't be silly, we don't want no oil spilly.") And we have hope.

The way Tom Steyer put it in his remarks at the rally, it may not be easy, but there really is no choice: "The Keystone [XL] pipeline is not a good investment. We can't afford 40 more years of dirty energy. Today we have to dare to say no to the Keystone [XL] pipeline and create a clean energy future."

So President Obama, I hope you're listening- because it's time to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, set carbon standards for dirty power plants, and move #ForwardOnClimate.

Thumbnail image for Forward on Climate Rally and Wash Monument Credit Josh Mogerman NRDC.JPG Photo credit: Josh Mogerman, NRDC.

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