By Matt Abele
Multimedia Communications intern, Fall 2012/Spring 2013
This past weekend’s Forward on Climate rally in Washington, D.C., made it more evident than ever that America is ready for a clean energy future. I arrived on a bus from Asheville, N.C., to join close to 50,000 people from across the country and world. As a collective, we showed up inspired and enthused, ready to bring the fight to the White House.
People gathered around a central stage located next to the Washington Monument to listen to keynote speakers ranging from U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to indigenous leaders from the U.S. and Canada. These speakers rallied up the crowd as they charged them to stand behind President Obama and make sure he sticks to his promise of a clean energy future by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and promoting alternatives to coal, gas and oil.
Appalachian Voices staff attended the rally to support communities that have been devastated by mountaintop removal. We were there to join 167 fellow sponsoring organizations in a call for climate action, but also to remind those calling for major policy shifts that economic diversification in the region must be included in a national strategy to combat climate change.
The diversity of these speakers were representative of the diversity of the group. There were children as young as infants and seniors being pushed around in wheelchairs. There were veterans, Native Americans, people of all color, religion, and economic status, a reminder that we all live on the same planet and must fight to protect it.
Once the crowds spread from the fields near the Washington Monument to the streets, it became apparent how many people were actually participating. The mass formed an energetic march, blanketing streets and encircling the White House. Chants and calls filled the air. With organizers calling this “the largest climate rally in U.S. history,” I’m sure a few people on Capitol Hill were paying attention.
Determined citizens from across Appalachia showed up to make their voices heard. Let’s spread this momentum throughout the region and tell our own congressmen and women, enough is enough. Today is the day to start our path towards a clean energy future right here in our hometowns. As Van Jones, president of the organization Rebuilding the Dream and advisory board member of Appalachian Voices stated in D.C., “If you don’t fight for what you want, you deserve what you get.”