I’ve been spending time in Philadelphia lately. That puts me in the interesting position of being present for the Democratic National Convention and all of the accompanying protests. I’d never been to a protest before, but when a local conservation group sent out an email inviting people to the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, I decided to go. I do a lot of online petition signing, but it’s time I start taking a more active role in standing up for the environment that I love so much.
Participants gathered at City Hall, fittingly next to the south side of the building, with its engraved “JUSTICE” above a portal to the courtyard. People were lined up by contingent: everything from indigenous, local, anti-fracking, faith, and health groups, to youth, elder, labor, renewable energy, and justice groups. Almost 900 organizations participated, including people from all fifty states.
The specific demands of the march organizers were these:
- A ban on fracking and other unconventional extreme fossil fuel extraction methods – we must keep fossil fuels in the ground!
- A halt to the rapid and reckless expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure including gas and oil pipelines, frac sand mining, wastewater injection wells, gas storage facilities, fossil fuel power plants, bomb trains, and other dirty infrastructure across the United States.
- A ban on the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), a halt to the approval of export facilities, and a continuation of the ban on crude oil exports.
- A stop to other dirty energy sources including incineration, nuclear power, and biomass.
- Environmental justice for all to end the disproportionate impacts on low-income communities and communities of color.
- Swift action to invest in solar, wind and other clean energy power sources and energy efficiency measures across the United States so that we can transition quickly to a 100% renewable energy economy.
- A just transition for workers who are employed by the fossil fuel industry, and policies to ensure that the new renewable energy economy provides living wage jobs and benefits communities across the country.
The first group in line was the Ramapough Lunaape Nation, whose homeland was turned into Superfund sites for decades. Their story epitomizes the justice portion of the clean energy movement. Communities of indigenous people, low-income people, and people of color are disproportionately affected by pollution and by climate change. Standing up for the environment and standing up for the disenfranchised are inextricably linked.
Another large group was the anti-fracking contingent. Fracking is a method of recovering natural gas from shale rock. It uses masses amounts of water, which is then so contaminated that it can never be used again. It also contaminates nearby groundwater and causes tremors in the earth. It makes people sick, hurts property values and the environment, and contributes to climate change through methane gas leaks.
The march finished at Independence Mall. That green space is surrounded by such historic sites as Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both signed), the Liberty Bell (whose inscription, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof,” has been a call to action for abolitionists and suffragists among others), and the President’s House site (with its focus on the incongruity of slavery in a new “free” nation). The whole area serves as a reminder of what has been done already to protect our country and its people, and what still needs to be done.
Next came the speech portion of the protest, with the leaders of many organizations sharing why they were there and what they think the next steps are in the campaign for clean energy. Despite the almost 100 degree temperature and the blazing sun, tons of people stuck around. While some laid right out in the sun, most people crammed themselves into every sliver of shade available, under the trees and next to the buildings surrounding the square. This seemingly never ending heat wave in Philly is just one more symptom of climate change, another reminder of why clean energy solutions are necessary.
Most estimates put the number of participants at about 10,000 marchers. I know the march stretched for blocks because I ran up and down it checking out all the groups, listening to their chants and taking pictures of their thought provoking signs.
Hopefully, some politicians took notice and can see how much support clean energy really has. And hopefully, others who saw or heard of the march were educated or inspired to take action themselves. I know I will be actively participating in protecting the environment in the future.