On February 17, I attended the largest climate change rally in U.S. history. Approximately 40,000 to 50,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. for the Forward on Climate rally and march. I was very excited and honored to travel with a small group of people from Southern Illinois to speak out on behalf of all of the people who couldn't be there. Together with over 40,000 other people from many places and backgrounds, we raised our voices to say no to Keystone XL and yes to action on climate change.
The rally and march were an amazing experience. I've been to a few marches in DC before, so it wasn't an entirely new experience. Even so, something about the far-reaching implications of climate change and the impassioned speeches by climate change activists really made me feel like I was taking part in an important moment in history.
There were several times when I was moved to tears, both while listening to the speakers and while reflecting on the issue during the march. At the end of the day, I felt very excited and satisfied about how many of us had marched together on that day, and very encouraged at the thought of how many more people were back at home cheering us on and calling for action right along with us. In the midst of the day's inspirations and successes, however, I also felt a sobering sense of just how much work we have ahead of us and just how high the stakes are in this struggle.
We are engaged in a struggle for the future of humanity. We are engaged in a struggle for the continued existence of an Earth that is habitable for life as we know it. Yes, life will surely go on in some form regardless of the choices we make today. But if we choose poorly, dramatic shifts in climate will lead to massive droughts, floods, collapses of entire societies, and collapses of the most basic ecological systems that support the many communities of megaflora and megafauna that currently grace this beautiful planet with their presence. The consequences of these societal and climactic instabilities may render the world of a hundred years from now nearly unrecognizeable, and none too pleasant for any humans still around to witness it.
Is this the gift that we want to give to our children and our children's children? Is this how the story of millions of years of co-evolution in an incredibly rich tapestry of biodiversity will end for the majority of species that call this planet home? Do we really want to squander so much for so little when other options are available to us?
Responding to climate change often reminds me of the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. The basic premise is that the Galactic Empire is about to collapse and a group of people start a Foundation to respond to that collapse. They realize that collapse is inevitable, but through their efforts hope to dramatically reduce the incredibly long period of suffering and chaos that will result from the collapse of the Empire.
Given what we know about climate change, I feel like we're in a similar situation. The damage is done; even if we stop 100% of our greenhouse gas emissions today, there will still be dramatic consequences, perhaps even catastrophic consequences,from our past emissions. If we continue on our current course of increasing rather than decreasing fossil fuel use, we will surely encounter catastrophes by the end of this century that will cause tremendous ecological harm and test the stability of societies around the world.
It's easy to look at that picture and get discouraged. But you know what? I'm done being discouraged. There's no point in being discouraged. Human beings are creative, passionate, amazing creatures with tremendous potential to reshape their reality in accordance with their will. Right now, we're all tangled up in a big messy nightmare that's leading us to bing on fossil fuels and go on a destructive rampage that's threatening to render our planet virtually uninhabitable. But on a smaller scale, in the hearts and minds of many individuals, groups, and communities, I have seen wondrous potentials for healing changes that could set all of this right and create an amazing world if only we would let them.
To make a long story short, this trip inspired me. Where there's life, there's hope. So let's stop pretending that we have no power and start acting like we have the power to create a better world. Because we do. Take action to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and do whatever it takes to create a more socially just and environmentally sustinable world.