Come on Down to the Climate Rally

climate rally logo

SUNDAY Feb 17, 2013  5:30AM      Three buses get on the NY State Thruway. Two from the “catchment area” of New Paltz, Poughkeepsie and surrounding towns, and another from SUNY-New Paltz.  3 of 130 buses from 28 states converging on D.C.  The New Paltz Climate Action Coalition organized the bus I’m on.

10AM–Baltimore.  I used to always enjoy looking across from I-95 to Camden Yards, the ballpark that ushered in a new era of human-scaled ballpark design.  Now I see that it’s dwarfed by the brash, back-to-business-as-usual Baltimore Ravens stadium.

Then I spot an eye-catching bill board with 2 pictures and one word: Unplug.


Nice thing to see on the way to a Climate Rally, eh?  (I thought Baltimore’s science museum–the Maryland Science Center–might be behind it.  But they’ve disavowed all knowledge.  Turns out it’s the 3 orgs above.  More about the campaign at

11:30AM  We get off the bus at the Washington Monument (still closed from the August 2011 5.8 earthquake)  It’s breezy, and now we feel just how cold it is (in the teens with the wind chill).


Throughout the day it’s clear that easily more than half the people here are college age.  Polar Bear hats and costumes are a popular theme.



Volunteers are giving out cardboard “Clean Air – Rally Signs” by the hundreds.


There’s a large ceremonial drum in this picture–look carefully and you can see mallets in action. The sound is fantastic.  Gathering of the tribes.


climate rally from stage

Starting at Noon, the speakers address their comments mostly to the President (“Lead!”) and to the young (“Don’t be chumps!”).  Lots of emphasis on the Keystone XL pipeline as a line in the sand.  (The Christian Science Monitor has a good piece today on that).

When Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation starts speaking, a man next to me says: “Hey, look up there–a red-tail hawk…two of them… wheeling!  Isn’t it significant that they come while she’s speaking.”  They certainly are not seagulls.  Soon the hawks fly off towards the Potomac.  I don’t think many in the crowd saw them.


march past eob


As the march makes its way to The White House, the crowd of 35,000 swells (so say the reports) to 40,000.



Signs & Banners on Parade!

Imagine Solar
Done with Being a Fossil Fool
Leave it in the ground!
Only my Mind & Rice should be Dirty
Why haven’t we Climate Changed?
Fossil Fuels Fuel Freaky Weather
Snow Women Against Fracking

And: Would we let terrorists poison our water supply if they said it would create jobs?

When we reach The White House, the sun comes out.


Been awhile since I was in a huge crowd of people like this–young & old & in-between– marching, singing, chanting, laughing.

Most popular song: This Land Is Your Land (of course).  We struggle to remember the verses.

Most popular chant: Hey Hey Obama/we don’t want/no climate drama

Overheard:  Man: (with enthusiasm) Fracking is Attacking!  Woman: Is that a cheer?  Man: What do you think?  Woman: I think you need to make it more catchy.


President Obama, are you ready to lead on global climate change?


Photos in this post are from my camera, except “Red-tail Hawk Harlan’s – Calurus” by Dominic Sherony (accessed from WikiCommons), and the 2 rally photos with watermarks from

To see a terrific video of Van Jones speaking, go to The New York Green Advocate.  Thanks Paul McGinniss!


About John Wackman

A writer since I learned to hold a pencil (no, not like that...hold it like this!). Long-time writer/producer for television, now organizer of Repairs Cafes in the Hudson Valley (13 & counting!) -- Program Manager of Solarize Hudson Valley, non-profit, state supported, community sponsored renewable energy program. We're all re-inventing ourselves. It's a sci-fi world, isn't it?
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