More than 1,000 global warming activists gathered on Capitol Hill Saturday afternoon as part of a nationwide effort to support legislation to combat what many are calling an environmental crisis.
The crowd assembled themselves into a human postcard telling Congress to cut carbon 80 percent by 2050. Step It Up, an organization created to coordinate 1,400 events in all 50 states for the National Day of Climate Action, organized the event.
It was the largest day of global warming activism in America’s history, according to Step It Up’s Web site. There are currently five bills before Congress concerning global warming, the most notable is the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act calling for 80-percent cuts in carbon emissions before 2050.
“The debate is over about global warming. We know it’s a problem,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, a national environmental activism organization. “It’s time for America to stop being the biggest part of the problem and start being the biggest part of the solution.”
Organizers said that both the Democratic majority in Congress and the film “An Inconvenient Truth” have heightened awareness for global warming legislation. There is still resistance in government, they added.
“The recent elections have given us an opening, and polling shows most Americans know there’s a problem,” said Bill McKibben, a chief organizer of the event, in an online letter to supporters. “But the forces of inertia and business-as-usual are still in control, and only our voices, united and loud, joyful and determined, can change that reality.”
Change must happen soon, organizers said.
“We are in a state of moral urgency,” said Kristin Lee, a spokesperson for the League of Conservation Voters. “We can no longer rely on our foot-dragger-in-chief to do something; we have to take action and show we are committed to reversing the effects of climate change.”
The crowd was composed of a large variety of people, ranging from D.C.-area college students to a man dressed up in a devil costume wearing a George W. Bush mask.
“We may not be as big as we were in the sixties, but what we lack in population, we make up for in passion,” said Laurie Greenberg, a self-described professional protester. Greenberg held a sign saying “Global Warming – It’s not cool.”
GW students also made their voices heard at the rally, many hoping the University will support their cause.
“Global warming is definitely going to be a major factor in the 2008 presidential election,” said junior Maggie Desmond, president of Green GW.
Desmond said she hopes to aid the University in becoming more environmentally friendly, and is optimistic about working with the University President-elect Steven Knapp to accomplish that.
Some other students went to rallies in the D.C. area to support the cause.
“The environment can no longer be a back-burner issue in national politics,” said junior Jeff Gustafson, the head of Environment GW, who attended a rally in Arlington, Va. “I think George W. Bush is the last president who can do nothing about climate change.”