It was a beautiful day for a rally yesterday, and the turnout was pretty good. One article claimed 1,500 attendees, but that number seems a bit high.
This was the latest rally sponsored in part by the Alaska Wilderness League, the last one held at the Capitol in 2005 focusing on ANWR and the plight of native wildlife and indigenous peoples in the area. The focus this year was much the same, with more emphasis on global warming than oil procurement. Speakers ranged from John Kerry to Alaskan leaders and villagers to the legendary DC DJ "The Weasel", promoting 94.7 The Globe, the area's first "green" radio station.
The crowd was decidedly young, consisting of mostly college students (presumably on spring break, like myself). I think this is a good sign, even though many of them lost steam and sat down about half way through the presentations.
Check out John Kerry's speech, polar bear suits, "bipartisanship", protest mongers and a short photo essay below the fold.
The speaker line up was almost entirely political figures. John Kerry was perhaps the choice fill in for the absent Gore at the rally (Gore will address the Congress today about environmental issues; no coincidence there), riding the wave of anticipation for the release of his own book addressing environmental issues. Despite the implied sales pitch, Kerry spoke well, centering his speech around the disruption of science by the Bush administration:
Now today on the front page of our newspapers, we see a story about how this administration has had people calculatedly, willfully stripping out of memos scientific fact. We deserve a government that accepts science and facts.
Isn't it sad that a statement like that even needs to be made?
Just last week I met with the top scientists of our nation, and they told me of the most recent indicators that we're seeing: increases in floods, increases in wildfires, increases in the movement of certain species, some 130 of which are now documented to have moved. We have seen birds... showing up in places they've never been. We see ice melting at a stunning rate in the Arctic and the Antarctic and Alaska. We see the permafrost melting. And Russian scientists now tell us that hidden in the hydrates of the tundra underneath the sea - with respect to the melting of the permafrost - are some four million billion tons of methane. If that methane is released as the permafrost continues to melt, you have 20 to 30 times the damage you have from carbon dioxide.
He pushed carbon sequestration as a viable solution, praised companies like Florida Power and Electric for promoting emissions reductions and sought to redefine conservation for the masses:
What we need to do is convince all Americans that this doesn't have to be a giving up of a quality of life. It's not. It's the gaining of a better quality of life.
RIGHT:Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
Other reps and senators spoke after Kerry, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Markey made some smarmy comments about Republicans in general that I felt were misplaced (it wasn't a Democratic convention), turning his speech into a "we're so great and we're in charge" bit instead of following Kerry's example. Not the best strategy, considering there were two Republican speakers sharing the same agenda that spoke at the rally after the Dems (I didn't catch their names, unfortunately, but I know one was from Michigan).
That cheapened the rally a bit for me (even though it should be expected) and further supported the tentative (imaginary?) nature of bipartisanship in DC. I goes back to my question I posed yesterday (to which no one had a response at the rally, btw; but I didn't get a chance to chat with the organizers).
Speaking of cheapening, the protest junkies were handing out "related" propaganda, assuming the crowd's party lines, calling for an end to war, vegetarianism and green roofs. The best flier I got publicized a protest about ending Israeli occupation. We all got a copy of that.
"What does this have to do with global warming?" I asked the guy handing them out.
"Must be the CO2 from all those tanks," said one of my friends.
If you want to see the rest of the pics, check out the entire album. I'll have some more thoughts later on the politics and celebrity of the "new" environmentalist movement, and whether or not events like these are actually getting the word out and affecting lawmakers or just preaching to the choir.
What do you think?
Combined with a targetted lobbying effort following the rally, as this event was, I think these events are useful. It was more about getting constituents to Washington to meet with their congressional offices than about the rally. I did not stay for that because my representatives, from MD, don't need any convincing so there were no appointments made with them. But as I am also a Democratic chair of my voting precinct, I get plenty of opportunities to thank them both in word and in deed - I also work at the polls on election day.