1000-plus at Denver climate-change rally

Denver and other major US cities show solidarity with DC event urging President Obama to take immediate action on climate change and oppose the KXL pipeline

| Feb 17, 2013

More than 1,000 people from across Colorado and supporters from a coalition of student, faith, indigenous, winter sports, political, and environmental groups marched from the Denver Auraria Campus and converged for a rally at Civic Center Park.

The #ForwardOnClimate Solidarity March and Rally in Denver coincided with tens of thousands of protestors, including many Coloradans, converging on Washington, DC for the largest climate rally in history. Denver was one of 18 cities hosting major actions to show solidarity with the DC event.

Micah Parkin of 350.org

Micah Parkin of 350.org

“Crippling drought, devastating wildfires, and super-storm Sandy have brought climate change home, and Coloradans are sending a message to President Obama, Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and other leaders that the time for strong action and policy is now,” said Micah Parkin, Colorado/Regional Organizer for 350.org. “Only strong measures will preserve Colorado’s water supply, economy, and a safe climate for future generations – it’s time for a renewable energy future that breaks the addiction to dirty and dangerous fuels.”

The Denver event kicked off with a student-led rally calling on university administrators to divest from fossil fuel companies. The students said they want to see leaders – from college presidents to President Obama – stepping up to transition their institutions and the nation away from fossil fuels, which they say are jeopardizing their future.

“We are here today representing student leaders from 14 campuses in Colorado and 253 universities across the country who want our schools to divest from fossil fuels, because it is unjust for our money to be supporting the unnecessary destruction of our environment, the climate and the future we will inherit,” said Mark Chavez, a student on the Auraria Campus.

Participants, dressed in black, then marched as a long ‘human pipeline’ to Civic Center Park where they formed a mass ‘human oil spill’ around banner that read “Forward On Climate – Stop KXL” to urge President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline and other extreme fossil energy projects. NASA scientist James Hansen has said that burning the oil in the Canadian tar sands could eventually raise the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to 600ppm, which he said would be “game over” for a safe climate. 350.org is named for what many scientists deem the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – 350ppm.

The rally that followed in Civic Center Park included statements from Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and several other notable speakers such as James Balog, the “Extreme Ice Survey” photographer featured in the recent award-winning documentary Chasing Ice, which captures on film the rapid melting of ice sheets and glaciers across the planet.

“Every human being has an inalienable right to a stable climate,” said Balog. “The time to act is now, not tomorrow, when the storm crisis will have broken upon us and whatever action we take will be too little, too late. Climate change is not a political issue. It is not a question of belief systems. It is a universal issue about real-world facts that should be addressed with rationality and intelligence.”

Auden Schendler of Aspen Skiing Company spoke of the dire economic impacts to the winter sports industry and tourism-dependent communities from the increasingly warm and less snowy winters Colorado is experiencing.

“We’re asking Obama to put deeds behind his words,” said Schendler. “Solving climate change is the biggest economic opportunity of the century, and Colorado is poised to lead.”

Other prominent speakers included Jodee Brekke of The Mothers Project and Protect Our Colorado, which are working to ban fracking in Colorado, Rev. Peter Sawtell of Eco-Justice Ministries, and Taryn Soncee Waters and Cheyenne Birdshead of Idle No More, an indigenous group standing against environmental destruction of tribal lands from the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We are asking Obama to make our climate and environmental crisis a national priority so our generation has a chance of inheriting a healthy, sustainable planet,” said Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, the 12-year-old leader of the Earth Guardians youth group, who emceed the rally. “Our climate crisis has passed a tipping point, and we need the President to do everything in his power to stop the KXL pipeline, put a cap on carbon, initiate a national ban on fracking, and put into place a Climate Recovery Plan.”

Senator Michael Bennet released a statement for the rally, stating “I have been frustrated by our lack of action in Congress on this issue because I believe we simply cannot afford to wait to build a sustainable future, create new clean energy jobs and break out reliance on foreign oil. It is time for us to come together on a comprehensive energy and climate solution that moves Colorado and the country forward.”

“We are starting to see climate disruption – fueled by dangerous carbon pollution – on a massive scale. Here in our state, nearly every major Colorado City has been darkened by smoke from a wildfire. We’re suffering record temperatures, alarming drought, and lowering water supplies. Now is the time for President Obama to lead an effort on the scale and with the urgency we need to phase out carbon-intensive fossil fuels and lead the way on energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy sources,” said Bryce Carter with the Sierra Club. “With the President’s leadership, we can drive our economy, create jobs, clean our air and water, protect our wild places, and improve our health with climate solutions.”

Co-sponsors of the event included 350 Colorado, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Environment Colorado, Protect Our Colorado, What the Frack?! Arapahoe, Earth Guardians, PLAN-Boulder County, Be the Change, Clean Energy Action, Eco-Justice Ministries, Colorado Move to Amend, Climate Ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder, Idle No More, AspenSnowmass, Protect Our Winters, American Indian Movement of Colorado and 14 Colorado GoFossilFree.org Campus Divestment Campaigns.