Forward on Climate and Forward in our Communities

Written by Ursula Ible, Green For All Ambassador

FAMU College Ambassador Ursula Ible: Front right

This past weekend, February 17, 2013, I joined the “Forward on Climate” rally at the National Mall in Washington DC. Organized and supported by organizations including the Green For All, Sierra Club,, and the Hip Hop Caucus, the rally involved over 40,000 demonstrators, including families, youth leaders, organizers, and a multitude of local and national orgs and groups. There were many guest speakers, including Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Van Jones, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Reverend Lennox Yearwood, and Bill Mckibben. 

The purpose of the rally was for the people to express our opposition to the pending Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry polluting tar sands oil across the country from Canada. Through signs, chanting, costumes, and a march from the National Mall to the White House, demonstrators sent a message to President Obama about the importance of our climate future. The rally called for implementing change by shifting our use of energy and moving forward with innovation, as well as reinforcing our environmental protection laws.

“If you don't fight for what you want, you deserve what you get,” said Van Jones, the president and co-founder of Rebuild the Dream. “President Obama, all the good that you have done, all the good you can imagine doing, will be wiped out by floods, by fires, by superstorms, if you fail to act now to deal with this crisis that is a gun, pointed at the head of the future.”

If completed, the 1,700 mile Keystone XL Pipeline will run from the Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. It will be a catastrophic step in accelerating climate change—the tar sands oil it will carry produces roughly three times as much global warming pollution as conventional oil. Environmentalists and critics are concerned that the pipeline will result in more air pollution and possible water and land pollution with increase risk in oil spills. Indigenous tribes in Canada, many of whom already face increased risk of cancer linked to the toxic waste left behind by production of dirty tar sands oil, have spoken out against the pipeline.

"We cannot eat money and we cannot drink oil," said Crystal, from Idle No More Indigenous Environmental Network of Canada.

President Obama has postponed his decision on the final phase of the Keystone XL pipeline until this summer.

Our president has to make a choice about whether or not to protect our children's future by preserving our air and water. Studies show that by 2050, we could produce 80 percent of our power in the US with available clean, renewable energy technology. But we can only make this possible if we keep moving forward politically and publicly. Our president should be an agent of change in the new millennium in promoting more educational programs, investing in technological advances, and enhancing the sustainability of our local economies around clean energy.

Overall, the rally was a phenomenal experience, and I am grateful that I was able to partake in history. I travelled with 10 Floridians in a van that was organized by Eckerd College and the Southern Energy Network.

"The U.S. and other world powers are involved in a game of chicken when it comes to greening their economy," said David Trujillo, a student of Eckerd College. "We need to take a stand and stop using fossil fuels, and once we restrict ourselves as far as what we can use, I believe that this new, more restricted and orderly framework will lead to great creativity regarding how we can sustainably grow our economy and strengthen our national security.”

Amongst my group was Jacquie Ayala of the Florida YES Coalition (Southern Energy Network), who helped Eckerd College campus leaders' bring over 100 students to D.C. from St. Petersburg. She also helped students from other campuses connect with the Eckerd students so they could participate in the rally for little cost.

“[It was memorable] hearing how the rally inspired the students from Florida to come back to their campuses and continue the fight. We are building a movement together, and I can't wait to see what they accomplish when we're back in their own campuses and communities,” said Ayala.

The long trek of 28 hours by van to D.C. and back to Florida was well worth the journey. I learned many significant things this past weekend, the most important being the power of the collective. I realized that to make a difference, you don't necessarily have to be a politician, a celebrity or be a part of a major rally. You have to be the change that you want to see in the world.

Start by doing things each and every day and to be a part of the ripple effect of a larger cause. Only you have the power to recycle, use different modes of transportation, take shorter showers, and run less electricity. Only you have the ability to make a tangible and positive impact in the world. Everything begins with one person. There are over 7 billion people in the world. How do you plan on living your legacy? The most inspiring part of this journey called life is the imprint you leave behind, and whether those who come after you can build upon it.

“Many times I feel a sense of apathy with our society, but this rally changed my view. I do not feel alone in this movement anymore, said Priscilla Castro, student and President of FSU Chapter of I.D.E.A.S. “To be part of the biggest climate rally in history is breathtaking and something I will always be proud of. We will make a change and our voices will be heard. "Ain't no power like the power of people, because the power of people won't stop!"

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