On February 17th the largest climate change rally in this nation’s history took place. The rally began at the National Mall where Bill McKibben—founder of 350.org an activist group focused on solving the climate crisis—delivered an energetic and motivating speech. Over 35,000 people braved the cold and turned out for the event. 350.org, The Sierra Club, and Hip Hop Caucus, all of which are prominent environmental advocacy groups, organized the rally.
The crowd consistent of activists from a wide range of other environmental advocacy organizations as well as concerned citizens who simply felt passionate about the cause. The purpose of the rally was to relay a strong and effective message to President Obama. That message was very basic: reject the Keystone pipeline and take on stronger legislation on climate change.
About an hour into the event after the majority of people gathered, and the massed began marching to the White House where they remained until the late afternoon. The attendees were incredibly diverse; there were trendy college students, aging hippies, families with young children, and people from every racial demographic. The energy was contagious, random groups of people would start a chant, which would spread to people half a block away. It was a fantastic demonstration of democracy.
Citizens are putting the pressure on Obama to keep to his inaugural promise to take stronger action on climate change. And as much as the President would like to appeal to this interest and demographic faction, this decision is much trickier than many people perceive it to be. There are obvious advantages to green lighting construction of the pipeline, one of which is the job creation potential of it. At this point, Obama cannot appease the environmentalists in his party at the expense of jobs and economic stimulation. In addition, the president has expressed a desire to wean America off of foreign oil; Keystone XL is an obvious way to do that.
The protesters’ general message of environmental stewardship and protection is very relevant and exceedingly important and many people across the political spectrum can agree with this movement. However, America is not in a good economic place to reject the opportunity potential KXL presents. Furthermore, the revenue derived from Keystone oil production, can and should be directed to new energy research and technology.
America is making the transition to clean energy, but domestic oil production is needed to help support the economy and jobs. All energy resources need to be given support and attention, not just renewable energy. There can be balance. Even though the president is feeling pressure from within his party, he needs to take in the big picture, and make a decision based on the currently crucial needs of this nation.