In between marching at the March for Science on Earth Day and the People’s Climate March on April 29th in Washington, DC, I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum reminds us of the unimaginable evil that can be unleashed from within ourselves when we fail to keep our lesser angels in check. Much of the journey through the museum described events that led up to the Holocaust and the systematic slaughtering of six million Jews. Its purpose was not to provide an excuse for this great human failure, but rather to put us on notice of where our future can stray when we don’t get our priorities straight.
An excellent description of this kind of ethical problem is pithily examined in an essay by a local ethics expert, Lawrence Torcello, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology:
“There can be no greater crime against humanity than the foreseeable, and methodical, destruction of conditions that make human life possible. Hindsight isn’t necessary.” (Yes, I am a climate alarmist. Global warming is a crime against humanity, (April 29, 2017, The Guardian)
We should be alarmed by Climate Change now because if we don’t, there won’t be enough healthy people to build a museum to our nostalgic collective disinclination to act on this crisis.
Before I went to DC for the marches, I attended the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club’s 19th forum with keynote speaker Sierra Club President Aaron Mair. This set the tone for my week-long trip because it signaled a major change in direction on how to address Climate Change. Many failures in our elections and climate talks have awakened minorities, the poor, and the disadvantaged that they are most likely to be hit first and worst by radical changes in our climate. Aaron’s talk, both at the forum and on WXXI’s Connections, provided ri,veting examples of how quickly environmentalism of the past must shift to environmentalism for the future by working with many disparate groups—many not historically focused on our environment.
National Sierra Club President Aaron Mair Discusses Climate Change Movement: It’s Ineffective Without Diversity National Sierra Club President Aaron Mair spoke in Rochester Thursday on the importance of diversity in the climate movement, without which he said would lead to an ineffective climate movement. He spent the evening showing a clear connection between the environment and race, discussing his work in Albany, NY shutting down a state-run incinerator and agency, or people of color’s ability to make the change they want to see. “At the end of the day, the key point is at what stage things get settled,” he said, referencing the fight for voting rights. “This is an important piece because a lot of folks when I start to take them on a journey…they say ‘that’s not environmentalism.’ Why protecting voting rights is critical to saving the environment, ‘well that’s civil rights. That’s not environmentalism.’ When I talk about the human condition and the human condition being a function of the environment ‘well, that’s not environment’…’So you mean I have a civil right to environment?’ Yes you do.” (April 21, 2017 Open Mic)
The March for Science
On Earth Day, in the drenching rain, we marched through DC trying to explain to an administration that doesn’t respect science how incredibly batshit crazy that is. I’m not a scientist but I do understand how difficult it has been for humanity to finally develop a way of thinking, testing, and coming to conclusions on important matters free of prejudice, ideology, and ignorance. So I can only imagine how those who have devoted their lives to science how they feel about having a real estate mogul who has flagrantly disregarded environmental regulations for most of his career telling them to forget what they know and let an angry and selfish belief system rule the day.
Did we change the Trump administration’s mind about science? Probably not. What is more likely is that we convinced each other (about 100,000) that we were ready to stand up to his bullying madness. Similar science marches around the country and other countries convinced us too. We likely made it clear to our representatives in Congress and in local governments, that there will be consequences for those representative who don’t respect science. And, it is quite likely that scientists, college students, and others who never, ever, would have considered getting into politics will now do so.
The Media and Climate Change
During my week in DC, I also visited the Newseum. The thought running through my head as I made my way around this trophy to our First Amendment was not the usual stuff about freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition, freedom of religion, nor freedom of speech. It was this: How are we going to move our historical notion of the media into a medium that can effectively communicate Climate Change now? How are we going to free climate denial from our collective need to address Climate Change? Or, how can we have our cake and eat it too, that is, how can we keep all these First Amendment freedoms and at the same time focus on a long-term ethical and existential crisis that is Climate Change? Will our media continue to descend into myriad silos of self-absorbing ideologies, or will this medium finally be able to focus on the priorities inherent to this issue on a scale and in a timeframe that will matter?
It doesn’t look good. While the news is very good at obsessive reductionist tendencies toward the spectacular, it seems incapable of communicating a seemingly slow-moving physical disaster persistently and free of divisiveness. Our media still doesn’t respect science and this has created bedlam for the First Amendment. (For example, how do we stop climate deniers from sowing doubt about the science behind Climate Change so we can address this crisis in time? Do we value Freedom of the Press over existence itself?)
Press conference and a red line
After checking out the American Indian Museum and the Air and Space museum, I had a chance to attend a press conference outside Congress with Senator Merkley, Senator Sanders, Senator Markey, and Bill McKibben:
100% Clean Energy Bill Launched by Senators and Movement Leaders Legislation comes ahead of Peoples Climate March on April 29th WASHINGTON - Ahead of the Peoples Climate March, Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senator Ed Markey stood beside movement leaders to introduce legislation that will completely phase out fossil fuel use by 2050. The “100 by ‘50 Act” outlines a bold plan to support workers and to prioritize low-income communities while replacing oil, coal and gas with clean energy sources like wind and solar. (April 27, 2017) Common Dreams)
If you can, check out some of my videos of the press conference--Senator Sanders and Bill McKibben—because although there seemed to be a lot media there, it is the dickens to find coverage of this event in the media. This bold energy plan obviously isn’t of the same eye-catching theatre as a bug-eyed Trump rant for the media.
Just after that press conference, more dramatic but even less covered by the media, was the Takes Roots Red Line Action where I joined in a passionate march for those who are going to are already getting nailed by Climate Change. I doubt you can find much media coverage about this dramatic event, even though hundreds of us (most dressed in red) circled the freaking Capital building with full police escort. Check out some clips I shot of the event (Clip One and Clip Two) because our media just covers events that fit in their agenda. This event, Mother Earth’s RED LINE, clearly did not fit their agenda.
Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) is a national alliance of US-based grassroots organizing (GRO) groups organizing to build an agenda for power for working and poor people and communities of color. We understand that there are important connections between the local issues we work on and the global context, and we see ourselves as part of an international movement for global justice. (About Grassroots Global Justice)
The People’s Climate March
An event that did reach the media was the 200,000 strong march to address Climate Change. Though only about half as large as the People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014, we marchers exhibited no less enthusiasm. For the best press coverage of the march in DC, I recommend DemocracyNow! which spent five hours interviewing and looking into our concerns in depth:
Watch: Democracy Now! Special Broadcast from the 2017 People's Climate March On Saturday, April 29, Democracy Now! will provide special live coverage of the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., organized to protest the Trump administration’s climate change-denying agenda. (April 29, 2017 DemocracyNow!)
Loud and numerous though we were, I doubt most of the public had more than a fleeting view of the march in the media because the Trump Show is endlessly diverting and distracting. Though the consequences of Climate Change are clearly upon us, our generation, like other generations, still has not sifted through our priorities and found that singular issue, which after many, many years will define our age. Something we would someday be likely to create a museum in DC for, wondering how, after all the blood and tears, we could have missed it.