USA Today On Keystone XL Rally: ‘Tens Of Thousands Demand Action On Climate Change’

So that was a heck of a rally. I welcome readers who attended to share their thoughts and pics.

If you missed it, you can get details from USA Today‘s story “Tens of thousands demand action on climate change.” Or from the Sierra Club news release, “More Than 35,000 Strong March on Washington for Climate Action.”

And then there’s always the Climate Progress twitter feed — my first mass tweeting from an iPhone.

I loved the combination of passion and knowledge that was driving the day. I had the chance to talk to a bunch of the speakers and was impressed by the strength of their commitment on climate in general and Keystone XL in particular.

Van Jones made clear that all of President Obama’s other accomplishments would be wiped away if he approves Keystone, since future generations are going to judge all of us on the basis of the actions we take on climate.

I was very impressed with the celebrities who came, that they had substance to go with the style. How great to have Rosario Dawson explain that it is called “tar sands” and not “oil sands.” And in chatting with her afterwards, it’s clear she also understands the spectrum of clean energy solutions.

And Evangeline Lilly (aka Kate Austen from Lost) was there as a Canadian to apologize to all the Americans in the audience for her country’s ceaseless efforts to send the dirtiest of fuels our way. I have seen every episode of Lost but lost my nerve to tell her how much I enjoyed her show except for the last five minutes, that is. It’s not like she was one of the writers…. But I digress.

I had a long talk with Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge-fund manager who helped lead the “No on Prop 23” campaign to save California’s climate law in 2010. He is also on the board of CAP. He is full throttle that we have to act — and act now — if we are to avert catastrophe. He said to the crowd that he has spent a lot of time reviewing investments and Keystone is a bad investment for this country.

It is good to see a movement with passion from the top all the way down to the roots.

68 Responses to USA Today On Keystone XL Rally: ‘Tens Of Thousands Demand Action On Climate Change’

  1. Paul Klinkman says:

    I feel that we’re still going to get whacked on the head by our world’s burgeoning methane fracking industry, and they’ll try to call it “good for the climate” all day and night. It’s like the “America you’re leaning on pork” ad campaign, or the doctors that told people how healthy cigarettes were in the 1920s.

  2. Douglas Hunt says:

    Atrue privelege to be there with Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light and spirit lifting to see that duo many are so passionate about this most important issue.

  3. bill mckibben says:

    Many thanks for being there. It was a pretty remarkable day–feels like a phase shift for the climate movement

  4. Lisa Wright says:

    Marching on DC Feb 17th, 2013

  5. Colorado Bob says:

    Bill –
    This was on the wire today –

    Opinion surveys showed that Filipinos rated global warming as a bigger threat than rising food and fuel prices, she said.

  6. BobbyL says:

    Can’t think of any source of fossil fuels that will not be fully exploited the way things are going. Next are deposits in the Arctic. It will be interesting to see if Obama goes all out to get the EPA to regulate emissions of existing power plants if he can’t get a cap and trade program through Congress and getting it passed appears impossible with the Republicans controlling the House. My guess is Kerry and Obama will approve the pipeline. The pipeline seems to fit in with Obama’s all of the above energy policy.

  7. DanB says:


    The other “pipeline” is the coal train from Powder River Basin to ports in Washington and Oregon. Like Tom Steyer I looked at the potential payback for US coal to Asia and it looks worse than dicey. It looks like a scam born of desperate Exec’s at Peabody.

    One port in Bellingham, Washington would cost 2/3 of a trillion dollars. Paying that back would require shipping billions of tons of coal. China’s starting cap and trade and they’re suffocating Beijing. India’s government is twisting in a massive coal scandal. There’s cheaper coal, provided by Peabody, from Mongolia, and closer coal from Indonesia and Australia. Powder River coal is getting deeper and more expensive.

    This “coal to Asia” scheme seems like a scam, and a huge bankruptcy in the making.

    And there’s the end-of-“nice”-nature, er.. issue. Would love to have Mr. Steyer crunch a few numbers on Coal-mageddon.

  8. I’d estimate about 10,000 at the San Francisco rally. Much larger than I expected. A great turnout.

    People stayed pretty focused. We had some of the usual leftie piling on with tangential issues, but for the most part, people stayed on-topic.

    Even so, as I spoke to my fellow climate-change activists, there was a surprising and dismaying lack of awareness about the Arctic ice cap and its imminent destruction–let alone what that destruction would mean for the climate.

    Still, a very gratifying turnout. Bravo to all.

  9. David Goldstein says:

    Don’t look now boys and girls but the Feb 10th (they update it weekly) Mauna Loa CO2 reading is 396.74. This is a full 3.5 ppm over same date last year. I am sure it is too early to statistically determine a trend acceleration but…the past months have seen 2.5-3.5 year over year increases. Hmmmm….wonder if that pesky permafrost is thawing more quickly than imagined ?(or, alternatively, if those pesky carbon sinks are saturating more quickly than imagined?).

  10. David Goldstein says:

    and on an even nerdier note…the CO2 level last May was 396.78….if that also bumps up 3.5 ppm (3.22 to be precise) then, VOILA…400 is ours this year!

  11. Anne says:

    The man in the foreground with fist raised is the Reverend Lennox Yearwood, President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus. I’ve accompanied him on several anti-war actions; about 10 years ago I was one of several people to let the Reverend know that the Hip Hop Caucus should take up climate change as a social issue around which to organize. It’s so good to see him taking center stage at a rally like this and bring all the great energy of the Hip Hop Caucus with him. Great turnout today: a diverse, energetic crowd, determined to be involved in the politics of climate change. I’m glad I made the effort and, encouraged by a friend, turned out for it. Heartening to see so much desire for positive change and the earnest activism among so many people, esp. so many young people who are eager to help solve the climate problem. An inspiring day. Even Santa Claus was there. He sign simply said, “I’m for Snow.”

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    GD –
    Nothing in the in the interglacials ever rose higher than 280 ppm .

    During the 2.5 million year span of the Pleistocene, numerous glacials, or significant advances of continental ice sheets in North America and Europe have occurred at intervals of approximately 40,000 to 100,000 years. These long glacial periods were separated by more temperate and shorter interglacials.

    Wiki –

  13. Paul Magnus says:

    50,000 Can we SOS?
    Can we save our-selves?

    Must see video… you will be stunned!

    Weather and Climate Summit – Day 3, Dr. Jennifer Francis

  14. Paul Magnus says:

    Considering the graph in the above link with the temp rise to come to match the CO2 elevated levels we are in for a Lovelock predicted outcome.

  15. David Goldstein says:

    Yep- and it may be creating a real worse case scenario- the Chinese coal is ratcheting up the CO2 while, possibly, at the same time, creating a short term but intense aerosol damping effect. At some point, when the damping effect is reduced…bammo….a nice thick, thick blanket of CO2 to jack up the global temps in a helluva hurry.

  16. Bob Geiger says:

    This was an amazing day, a tipping point in the movement. Bill, it is you who deserve the thanks. Lead on!

  17. Bob Geiger says:

    That’s a great turnout! If we can maintain the engagement, the awareness will come. Celebrate the day!

  18. wili says:

    In a hell of a hurry, and for a long, long time.

    Time that will be greatly multiplied by the (possibly) slower feedbacks of permafrost – terrestrial and sea bed – and of sea bed clathrates, deeper methane deposits on shore and under the sea bed, as well as from other soils and vegetation.

    It will likely take millions of years for the earth to get over the hangover from our merely decades long fossil fuel party. Even longer for life to fully recover, if it ever does.

  19. wili says:

    What Bob said. Truly thankful for your leadership. Look forward to hearing you at Macalester and at St. Thomas in St. Paul soon.

    The polar ice cap is undergoing a change of state. We have to as well.

  20. Nan says:

    I was happy to see so many twenty-somethings. It was an inspiring event (but cold) and i’m glad I made the trip.

    Now if only Obama listens to our pleas.

  21. JoeT says:

    “It looks like a scam born of desperate Exec’s at Peabody.”

    No, it’s simply going to who will pay the most for it.

  22. David Smith says:

    It was very intense, a lot of positive energy, very cold. I went to two previous 350 events in DC from the Raleigh, NC area. This time I traveled in a bus filled with climate hawks. The first Nation speakers were powerful. One actually said “I lay down my life” for this cause (Not an exact quote) . That’s commitment. There seemed to be a lot more young people at this event, which i think is a good sign; It did feel like the birth of an actual popular movement, gaining in strength; 4 times as many people as the last event and in the middle of winter. The media can choose to belittle it or not cover it and the word is still spreading. Next time we need 100,000 people. Apparently there are more events in the works.

  23. Larry Gussin says:

    I’d call for 1 million people Memorial Day weekend, spread across six or eight cities.

    We must show that the president does not speak for climate activism, whatever he does in the next few months. We must continue to call for actions during 2013 that include but go far beyond canceling the pipeline. Forward On Climate!

  24. Joan Savage says:

    I agree.

    Peabody’s Powder River coal is high-quality ‘ingredient’ coal used for alloys.

    It can sell to countries that otherwise have enormous reserves of coal of lesser quality.

  25. Endofmore says:

    the ‘demand’ for climate change action should have come 40 years ago when the parents of these protesters (including me) were all blowing our fossil fuel inheritance and living the high life
    Jimmy Carter was offering warnings, the voters didn’t like that so chose Reagan who said everyone could go on burning fuel forever.
    I think we’ve left it too late folks

  26. Newspaper estimates 4,000. Seemed like more. Appearances deceive. Perhaps seeing the crowd with my heart and not my eyes.

  27. While this is definitely progress, there are several measurements that show just how far we have to go. For example, RG III regularly draws far more people to a few hours of football than showed up for the rally.

    Another example comes from the weekend coverage on MSM news programming. We all knew it was going to happen, but did not see a any mention on the weekend talk show circus. In other words, the networks have defined the key issues for now as being gun violence, immigration reform and the “sequester.” Climate Change does not fit their narrative. Even when it got covered, along with local rallies, something is lacking. When KGO (ABC in San Francisco) weekend anchor Ama Daetz read the story, it felt as if she did not know how to put it into any context.

    Then, this morning, as we think congratulate the participants (as they deserve) we find that the price of gasoline has gone up some 13 cents in the past week and nearly 50 cents year to year. One has to question whether or not the rise in the price of gasoline is a ploy to make new pipelines seen to be a necessity. Right now, princes in some parts of California are over $5.00 / gal.

    This is like a sports event. We have just had our first chance to score, but the game is far from over.

  28. Superman1 says:

    The odds of small children today reaching old age under the coming climate catastrophe are closing in on zero.

  29. Superman1 says:

    We had crowds more than twenty times this size in the mid-60s, and their net impact was zero. Sorry, the game is over, and we’re running out the clock.

  30. wili says:

    I actually tend to agree with you, S, as far as impending consequences of the GW already in the pipeline being beyond horrific.

    But it is still not too late to make life uncomfortable for those who have most avidly been driving this train toward the wreck we are now in the midst of.

    And it is never too late to start living within one’s ecological means – as an individual, family, institution or country – even if the rest of the world continues it’s mad drive toward utter extinction.

  31. wili says:

    IFF Obama really does want to do the right thing by Keystone, a major rally like this gives him cover to say, “Look, there is a strong movement on this that is also my base, so politically I can’t do anything else but reject it.”

    I too, though, was disappointed not to see more coverage in more media venues. But CSPAN did cover the whole rally.

  32. wili says:

    Though it certainly looks to me to be too late to avoid probably-global-civilization-ending climate catastrophe, it is, of course, never too late to fight against the powers that were most central in bringing on this armageddon, and it’s never too late to start to try living within one’s ecological means, even as the physical and living world is coming apart at the seams all around us.

  33. Superman1 says:

    “But it is still not too late to make life uncomfortable for those who have most avidly been driving this train toward the wreck we are now in the midst of.” But, didn’t we have our hands on the controls as well? The deniers and pushers certainly deserve blame, but we were willing accomplices as well.

  34. Superman1 says:

    ‘Strong movement’; I attended rallies in the mid-60s to end the VW that had over twenty times the attendence of yesterday, and they had zero impact. The 73-75 recession coupled with Congress’ unwillingness to spend more is what ended the VW. Yesterday’s rally needed thirty times the atttendence to make anyone sit up and take notice.

  35. Superman1 says:

    The medicine required to give the patient even the slimmest hope of survival is far too strong for anyone even on these pages, and unacceptably strong for the larger public.

  36. Dick Smith says:

    Washington in Winter. Whodda thunk it. Amazing turnout. Fun to be part of it.

    I’m curious. When’s the last time anyone staged a big rally in D.C in February?

  37. Daniel Coffey says:

    I have no axe to grind and no union to support or business model to favor, I just want to deal with global warming before it is utterly impossible. My greatest fear is we have toyed with solutions at the margin, favored special interests who want to do thing as slowly and expensively as possible, and will not listen to those calling out for rapid responses.

    It is always about a little conservation, shutting down a pipeline or some relatively small task. We need to get on with the true transformative tasks: decarbonizing electricity production and electrifying transportation to the maximum extent possible. Only when people have a real substitute are they going to be able to shift from coal, oil and natural gas.

    But that approach is going to require people to stand aside and let some major construction occur, which must occur before its too late.

    I cannot say this enough times: time is running out and we will not get a second chance to deal with global warming in an appropriate fashion. It is time for environmental groups to stop trying to delay every renewable energy project anywhere.

    Fighting pipelines is interesting, but what about showing up at a large-scale wind or solar PV project hearing and rallying IN FAVOR instead of slowing it down? We need to adopt a constructive approach, not a narrow view that only solar-on-rooftop will do… It’s not enough to be against things, everyone must be affirmatively for getting things built soon so we can put coal, oil and natural gas in the rear view mirror quickly.

  38. Daniel Coffey says:

    Ready, willing and able: witness our use of the internet, computers, and all that entails in order to say a few things.

  39. Paul Magnus says:

    the numbers will rise as the climate disruption impacts more and more people.

  40. Daniel Coffey says:

    Very interesting perspective, one I have not read before. It seems as if that might justify port investments even as the Chinese and others massively deploy large-scale wind and solar PV in order to produce electricity.

    I have read that investors are concerned that China’s very rapid deployment of solar PV and wind suggests that repayment of investments in ports might be difficult or impossible. However, if the coal is used in other markets, then it might keep some value. The real question is whether that is enough to justify a large portage facility, or might also fall short.

  41. Daniel Coffey says:

    I hate to say this, but by researching and writing about global warming over the last 5 years, it has become apparent to me that almost everyone, including a very large percentage of environmentalists, have almost no idea what the scale, scope, intensity or duration of global warming. They treat it like some many garden-variety environmental challenges, when it is the Grim Reaper whose ravages can only be avoided by super-rapid transformation in our energy and transportation systems.

    Just saying the words “global warming” or “climate change” does not impart the proper dread, certainly not at a level which causes good choices to be made between competing environmental issues. Views, or the end of civilization? A patch of habitat or a 100,000 square miles of habitat? These are the real choices made but utterly unacknowledged by the typical environmentalist seeking to delay renewable energy projects intended to decarbonize electricity production and electrify transportation.

    Hangnails and heart wounds are not equal in the rules of triage.

  42. Brooks Bridges says:

    Can you, for the sake of my grand children shut up! I am sick of your negativity. I skip over your posts but unfortunate read fast enough to get the tone in a second.

    You can NOT predict the future with absolute certainty but by your every post you’re doing your best to assure your predictions come true. Are you actually proud of this?

    I’m no Pollyanna – I know how bad it is. But the human race, when it finally wakes up, can do incredible things.

    WTF is the point of your posts? What POSSIBLE good to they do?

    I was at the rally and it was incredibly inspiring. Then I come here and have to read your negative BS.

    Thanks a lot.

    I wish this were a Yahoo group so I could suppress all your posts.

  43. Daniel Coffey says:

    What is it that the human race should be doing in your estimation?

  44. B. Smith says:

    I agree. I usually only lurk but you articulated a sentiment that I truly agree with. I feel like people like him are no better than the climate deniers. In 50 years, I doubt people will say, “well all the ice caps melted, but hey at least some guy on an internet site told everyone not to bother doing anything about it!”

  45. Joe Romm says:

    An absurd statement with no basis in fact or imagination.

  46. Superman1 says:


    There are climate models (without including positive feedback mechanisms) that predict temperatures in the 5-6 C range by the end of the century, or before, with business as usual. According to Mark Lynas, and others who have addressed the issue since his book was written, that’s game over for civilization. Add in the positive feedbacks we are seeing today, and the date comes in much closer. Given that BP’s 2030 Energy Outlook predicts a 30% increase in fossil fuel use over 2010, and those numbers are based on corporate and government plans, the most probable outcome based on what we are actually doing today is the statement of mine that you question. Somebody five years old today has low probability of reaching eighty, or possibly far less, if these models are anywhere near the truth.

  47. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Wonderful stuff folks and I’m sure it will spread, ME

  48. Superman1 says:

    “I wish this were a Yahoo group so I could suppress all your posts.”

    And, replace them with what; your fantasies about what is possible? Show me a credible plan that has any hope of preventing us from going over the cliff, based on evidence not fantasy. I have yet to see such a credible plan laid out in any detail on these pages.

  49. Superman1 says:

    You’re right on target, but few here want to hear that message. They are ‘optimistic’, with no credible plan on which to base their optimism. When I look in detail at what’s happening in the Arctic and its potential to trigger off the myriad other positive feedback mechanisms, and I see no credible mitigation procedures offerred, I see zero reason for optimism.

  50. Brooks Bridges says:

    Anyone who reads this column regularly knows what humanity SHOULD be doing and knows it’s not.

    As to what “we” the readers of this column should be doing read “A Woman’s Crusade” about Alice Paul and the personal sacrifices they made FOR YEARS to get women the vote. Read up on Bill McKibben – measure your efforts against these people and try harder. I know I fail miserably.

    But what I DO know is it is incomprehensible to me why SuperDoomAndGloomMan1 feels compelled to spread his “Resistance is Futile – Accept the Climate Change Borg”.

    I agree with B. Smith – I’m starting to wonder if he isn’t a very sophisticated climate denier troll. He is certainly furthering their aims extremely effectively.

  51. Brooks Bridges says:

    Gloom and Doom, Gloom and Doom. You’re a real Johnny One Note.

    Again, what’s your point – depress anyone trying to do something positive so they’ll give up? That seems to be your one and only goal. Why?

  52. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Perhaps they underestimated? ME

  53. Superman1 says:

    You misinterpret my message, and I suspect it’s deliberate. My message is the equivalent of being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and the Doctor saying you have six months to live. He’s not saying don’t fight; he’s saying that based on past data, the charts show you have six months left. Most people will continue to fight after such a verdict. I encourage fighting, but against the right enemy with the right tools. What is your battle plan?

  54. Superman1 says:

    I answered your tirade in #13.

  55. Solar Jim says:

    Thanks to everyone.

  56. cathy strickler says:

    I really respect and treasure the discussion here. I do believe we’re all on the same team earth and recommend Joanna Macy’s new book ‘Active Hope’ which doesn’t mean hopefulness but the willingness to work for the future we desire. I think with reading it, all would have a better understanding of each other. It’s very honest and smart. I was considering quiting my work on GW considering all factors but, in part because of this book, am continuing. I admire you all for being so honest with each other, it’s inspiring to a conflict adversive person like me. You sound like a family who loves each other a lot. I would love to hear your reaction to it if you take a deep breath and take the time to read it, it takes a day.

    I was at the rally yesterday, was arrested at the White House in 8-11 with all the other 1250 people, started and led a local climate action group for 4 years. During the march yesterday I talked with man who has started to focus on civil disobedience for people older than 50. It is past time to start mass training for nonviolent CD. He’s not educating or lobbying.

  57. Andy Hultgren says:


    With all respect (sincerely), I think it is incumbant on you to formulate a plan (or find one that you support), propogate it, and seek to follow it through at the very least at your own municipal level.

    Offering criticism without also offering a path forward is counterproductive. It is demotivating and unispirational. This is, I think, what others are reacting against. And I know it is not your goal!

    There are uncertainties in the future, and surprising things have happened in humanity’s history that no one could have predicted beforehand. We need that now, certainly. And steps towards climate action, however small, set us up to take advantage of any lucky swings we may have in the future.

    Attempting a Hail Mary as your last play is far better than sitting it out on the sidelines.

    All of this offered in my most humble opinion, and with the most sincere respect.



  58. Joshua Jackson says:

    The rally was disappointingly small. 350 once again shows that it is not yet committed to actual grassroots organizing. My best guess for turnout was 20-25000 tops, whereas it could have and should have been ten times as large. We need a much larger and vastly more serious coalition that articulates a clear and appropriate policy. McKibben and others understand the science – although from my interactions a lot of climate activists and “environmentalists” don’t begin to be aware of latest research and full extent of impacts – but he and other “leaders” still don’t understand the necessary politics and strategy. The “movement” needs to consolidate, form some organizational coherence, commit to a real political solution (ie, federal coordination of economy, rapid clean energy shift, latest CCS technologies, Lackner’s trees, nickel-based absorption), and then fight like hell for it, using revolutionary methods if necessary. The movement’s nowhere near where it needs by now, organizationally, intellectually, and politically.

  59. Brooks Bridges says:

    No you didn’t.

    I have yet to hear you explain why your posts are not aiding and abetting the fossil fuel industry’s campaign to prevent action on climate change.

    I see no other point to them.

  60. Sasparilla says:

    I’m sure you’re right Paul, although I see a silver lining in all this. The low natural gas price is helping finish off a lot of Coal plants. The low natural gas price is only temporary (couple of years until we start exporting and that price is much, much higher) – which will probably bring our domestic gas prices up to international prices and bingo we’ve finished off a bunch of coal and now Wind is cheaper than gas and its off to the races via the market for Wind.

    We’ll have to wait and see of course, but this looks like how it’ll play out to me (which if we don’t have a real climate change energy policy would be better than nothing).

  61. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    There is so very little pristine, irreplaceable, habitat left in the USA or elsewhere, and so very, very, much more degraded, derelict or over-exploited land, plus vast areas of military reservations, range lands where cattle and wind turbines could co-exist etc, that I find this constant insistence that renewables must be sited on the pitiful remains of pristine habitats, very, very, strange, indeed.

  62. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    So ‘…environmental groups are …trying to delay every renewable energy project anywhere’. My, oh, my! EVERY one, ANYWHERE. Amazing. Could you, for a change, nominate one specific example of this absolute opposition to ALL renewable energy, EVERYWHERE? Oh, and could you please specify exactly which environmental groups are responsible. This is really, really, irresponsible of them…if it is true.

  63. David Smith says:

    I was there. I did my own estimate off the crowdd size when I got home and thawed out. Using Google Earth I measured the area of the streat that was used and seperately, the area of the assembly. The assembly area could hold 64,000 people when full calculated at 6 square feet per person. I was neer the stage, at the dencest part. we had about 2 square feet per person. I couldn’t turn and felt like I could have lifted my feet and not fallen. Clearly other areas were alot less dense, look at the photos. IMO, 40,000 to 50,000 seams reasonable. The results were similar when I analysed the street part of the program. It was a lot of people. 4,000 is not even close.

  64. Ben Lieberman says:

    Joe Nocera doubles down: being a NYT columnist means never having to say your sorry.
    Take away: let’s burn it all now!

  65. Ken Barrows says:


    All I want from posters is that growth is not good and technology is necessary but not sufficient. Not gonna happen.

  66. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Which newspaper?