At approximately 4 p.m. Friday, April 28, a Coach USA bus filled with Sierra Club and 350 Madison members left Madison for the Washington, D.C., People’s Climate March. Armed with colorful and creative homemade signs, the riders, including one Janesville resident (the writer), were united by a desire to protest the first 100 days of the Trump administration.
The day we left Madison, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding offshore drilling for oil and gas. With his choice of Scott Pruitt, a climate denier, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, along with his severe budget cuts to that agency, the Trump administration will significantly damage our country’s natural resources. The resulting polluted air, water, and land may take generations to ameliorate.
The People’s Climate March on April 29 was primarily organized by the Sierra Club and 350.org. with help from a coalition of other environmental and social justice groups. The main purpose was to show how much the American public supports moving beyond use of coal, oil, and natural gas to the use of renewable energy sources, like solar and wind power.
The name 350 refers to the uppermost limit of carbon dioxide considered “safe” in earth’s atmosphere. Currently, we have an unsafe level of 410 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to 350 founder Bill McKibben, who attended the march. These greenhouse gases have caused climate to change in ways affecting everyone around the world with an increase in natural disasters, violent storms, and the melting of our polar ice caps.
There are no real "sides" to this issue. There is only one side, the human and earth side. As humans, we all developed on a planet with plenty of oxygen and water for us: planet earth. We all need clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. There is no other viable planet for us. There is no planet B!
Our bus arrived in Washington in plenty of time to line up in front of the Capitol Building before the march. While waiting for it to begin, we had the opportunity to chat with people from all over the country. Coalitions participating included Protectors of Justice, made up of various indigenous groups; Creators of Sanctuary, with immigrants, women’s groups, LGBTQI groups, people for food sovereignty and land rights; Builders of Democracy, made up of labor, voting rights groups, and democracy organizations; Guardians of the Future, with parents and students; Defenders of Truth, scientists, educators, and health workers; Keepers of Faith, composed of various interfaith religious groups; Re-shapers of Power, with anti-corporate, anti-nuclear, fossil fuel resistance, and renewable energy groups; and Many Struggles, One Home, made up of several environmental groups and activists. Wisconsin was also represented by a bus load of 350 Milwaukee protesters.
According to CNN, over 200,000 people participated. We marched past the Capitol, down Pennsylvania Avenue, to the White House, and down 15th Street to Constitution Avenue. Many people stood or sat along the sidewalks, up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. The 92-degree heat prevented some from marching, but not from participating. This level of heat is not typical for April in Washington, D.C., which drives home the theme of global warming all the more.
The march is just the beginning for Wisconsin environmental activists. From this point forward, we will continue to bring pressure on local and state elected officials to stop companies such as Enbridge from expanding, or building new oil and tar sands pipelines. This Friday, May 5, the 350 Madison group is sponsoring a Divestment March, highlighting area banks: BMO Financial Group, Chase Bank, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo, all of which give significant financial support either to Enbridge or to Dakota Access pipelines. People are invited to meet on the Capitol Square at 3:30 p.m. Marchers will stop at each of the four banks to distribute information about how individuals might personally divest. In addition, high school and college students are participating with “Seize the Grid.” This action will put pressure on their school’s officials to transition to 100 percent clean energy on their campuses.
Susan Amber Johnson, who lives in Janesville, is a member of 350.org.
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