Senator Bernie Sanders was among speakers at the event called “Fossil Free Fast: the Climate Resistance.”
By B.L. Wilson
More than a thousand people, energized and amplified, streamed into George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium Tuesday night for the launch of a climate movement campaign promoting a transition to renewable energy and an end to the use of fossil fuels.
Julian NoiseCat, a policy analyst with 350.org, which hosted the event, appealed to the audience and others watching online around the country, calling climate change “a grave threat to humankind.”
“This nation’s first people, the original stewards of this land, are standing up and speaking out on behalf of a planet in peril,” Mr. NoiseCat said. “When we come together, we ensure justice for all.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) headlined the event and took the stage to a reception worthy of a rock star, the crowd standing and roaring its approval. He spoke of a year of extreme weather disturbances in the United States that he said should leave no doubt that climate change is real.
“Drought, wildfires, heat waves, extreme storms, mud slides, rising sea levels and much, much more. In terms of climate change, the debate is over,” said Mr. Sanders. “The issue in front of us is not a scientific debate, it has everything to do with political will.”
Billed as “Fossil Free Fast: the Climate Resistance,” the rally was organized by 350.org, the global climate movement co founded by Sen. Sanders’ Vermont neighbor, environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben.
Mr. Sanders noted that “Donald Trump spoke last night for over an hour. He talked about many things but somehow he forgot to mention the words climate change,” he said to a chorus of boos. “What an outrage.”
“[Mr. Trump] has appointed, typically and dangerously, administrators of the EPA and the Department of Energy who are doing everything they can to stop the movement towards sustainable energy.”
Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s actions, he sees progress being made in the United States and around the world.
“In our own country, we are seeing hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs being established through wind and solar and geothermal and other sustainable energy,” Mr. Sanders said. “There is no doubt in my mind—and by the way no doubt in corporate America’s mind who are investing more and more in sustainable energy and less and less in fossil fuels—that the future is with us. We will create an energy system which is clean, not polluting and sustainable.”
Leonard Lennox Yearwood, president of Hip Hop Caucus, a get out the vote organization, and Mr. McKibben served as emcees in an evening replete with speakers that included environmentalists, and advocates for environmental justice, voting rights, gender rights, civil rights and rights for indigenous people. The movement has tapped into energies that are fighting against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.
Mr. Lennox told the audience that the death of Eric Garner who died while being held in a chokehold by New York City police, giving rise to the phrase, “I can’t breathe,” is connected to the climate movement fight. Calling his daughter, Erica Garner, an equity justice warrior, he told them, “She died at age 27 one month ago. When Erica died she had an asthma attack which led to a heart attack. These things are connected.”
Mr. McKibben said there are three arms to 350.org’s campaign: a fast, just transition to 100 percent renewable energy; an end to fossil fuel projects; and ending the flow of money to dirty energy.
Already, Jameka Hodnett, the lead organizer of Sierra Club’s Ready for 100, told the audience, 56 cities and towns have committed to renewable energy.
“These 100 percent Clean Energy commitments mean little,” she said, “if we leave low income, black, brown and indigenous communities in the same conditions that an economy based on fossil fuel extraction environment has left them in.”