The protest was about generating energy by burning coal, the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change. We heard from NASA's Dr. James Hansen, climate change guru. We also heard from Bill McKibben, environmentalist author of The End of Nature (1989), the first book on global warming for a general audience. But the protest was about more than global warming. Young people, whose futures are on the line, were shouting exuberant chants such as:
Tell me what Democracy looks like,
THIS is what Democracy looks like!
Many of these young adults had attended the PowerShift '09 conference, and were in DC to lobby Congress for a clean energy future with green jobs and environmental justice.
We saw all sorts of placards: Coal stinks! Coal is dirty! Coal makes us sick! Stop Coal!
We heard from indigenous peoples speaking with the utmost respect for the environment and "Mother Earth", and who view the seams of underground coal as her "liver". These people are being pushed off their land in the southwest to make way for coal strip mines. Others can't eat the fish from their waterways because of mercury contamination from burning coal.
We heard from a local resident who lives one block from the Capitol Power Plant who told of getting "rained on" by power plant emissions that later had to be removed her car windshield with an ice scrapper. She also told of a high cancer incidence on her street, in people and in dogs.
A woman from Australia where coal and uranium are mined for export said, "We are dying to give the world energy!"
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. gave a rousing speech, saying that coal companies could not survive in the marketplace if they had to pay their own freight, referring to the heavy government subsidies that taxpayers provide to keep coal "cheap". He also talked about the negative impact on public health of mercury pollution and particulates from coal-fired power plants, and the environmental devastation of coal mining by mountaintop removal.
Below is a brief video interview about the protest with R.F.K.Jr. just before the march to the power plant:
There were many other luminaries, celebrities and concerned citizens who spoke. Here's a sampling of the Capitol Power Plant protest NEWS:
- ENS: Anti-Coal Protesters Block Gates to Capitol Power Plant
- AP: Thousands rally for legislation on climate change
- TIME: Despite Snow — and Irony — a Climate Protest Persists
- USA TODAY: Thousands gather in D.C. cold for rally about global warming