On Saturday, marking the first 100 days of the Trump administration, throngs will gather in Washington, D.C., for the People's Climate Mobilization, a march to support action against climate change. Organizers say the number of participants could approach that of a similar 2014 event in New York City which drew 400,000 people. Activists across New England have already chartered dozens of buses to take demonstrators to Washington.
I decided to join the march without a moment’s hesitation. Despite the prospect of two consecutive nights on a bus, probably tolerated better by a millennial than by a 60-year-old like myself, I realized that the extraordinary times in which we live demanded my involvement. And with that decision, I saw, in hindsight, the path I followed to my activism today.
Despite the prospect of two consecutive nights on a bus ... I realized that the extraordinary times in which we live demanded my involvement.
I was an impressionable eighth-grader when the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. It was around then that the word “pollution” took on its current meaning and entered the American political vocabulary. The environment became an issue that reliably pitted left against right, and for many years I sided reflexively — and rather passively — with the environmentalists. I made sure to send them my tax-deductible donation at the end of every year.
But as the climate change crisis came into sharp focus over the past several years, my cocktail-party opinions gradually hardened into firm convictions. The climate situation called for meaningful political action — being a diligent recycler wasn’t going to cut it. And now, confronted with an administration that holds an ahistorical contempt for decades of scientific research and environmental progress, my engagement rises to a new level.
I’m marching because climate change is here today. It’s disrupting weather patterns, acidifying the oceans and melting the polar ice. This is happening now — it isn’t just about somebody’s grandchildren.
I’m marching in solidarity with the global community of scientists and engineers who have studied climate change and are creating the technologies that will help to reverse it.
I’m marching to counter the normalization of denial. It’s deceitful to characterize the basic facts of climate change as debatable or unsettled. Year after year, humans extract billions of tons of carbon from the bowels of the earth and blast it into the atmosphere. We need to stop indulging the skepticism of humanity’s culpability.
I’m marching because the use of coal to generate electricity is environmentally and economically absurd. We have cheaper means that do far less harm.
I'm marching because it's a scientific fact that carbon dioxide, produced in excess by burning fossil fuels, is a greenhouse gas, and the EPA must regulate it. (And wouldn’t it be great if all the justices on the Supreme Court understood that?)
I’m marching because I reject the assertion that spending money on climate research is a “waste of money.”
I’m marching to embrace the idea that we can phase out the use of fossil fuels. We no longer rely on burning dung, or wood or whale oil. We can see the end of coal on the horizon. The next step in this historical progression is the elimination of all carbon-based fuels.
I’m marching because the role of the United States in reversing climate change is crucial. Our nation is the second-ranking emitter of greenhouse gases. If we walk away from the commitments we made at the 2015 Paris climate talks, other nations will do the same. And global leadership on climate issues will pass to China and Europe.
I’m marching because we have to stop permitting fossil-fuel infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline. These move us in the wrong direction.
Now, confronted with an administration that holds an ahistorical contempt for decades of scientific research and environmental progress, my engagement rises to a new level.
I’m marching in support of strategic infrastructure planning to manage the effects of climate change. The more time that passes without taking action, the greater will be the cost to adapt. Some cities, including Boston, have recognized the danger in complacency, and they’re working on plans to deal with the effects that are already “baked in.”
I’m marching because I deplore weakening the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards in order to appease the auto industry.
I’m marching to recommit to our ethical obligation to protect the Earth and to militate against the government’s abandonment of that responsibility. History teaches us that societies collapse if they fail to correct their self-destructive practices.
I know some people question whether these major marches change the world. In answer to that, I recall the words of novelist and activist Alice Walker who said, “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." I’m not giving up my power. I’m adding it to the power of a half-million others, marching, on April 29.