Yesterday I took part in the "Salem to Paris: Support Climate Justice" march and rally that was sponsored by our local 350.Org group.
It was part of a worldwide movement to support the climate change talks in Paris -- one of the largest gatherings of world leaders ever.
Here's three things you should know about Sunday's event:
(1) People in Salem turned out! Yay for citizen activism!
Since this was the weekend after Thanksgiving, I headed to the intersection of Court and High in downtown Salem figuring that just twenty or so aging baby-boomers would march to Riverfront Park, where the climate justice rally took place.
But way more people marched -- including a bunch of youngsters (of course, at my age just about everybody is a "youngster" to me). This photo was taken at the gathering spot adjacent to Courthouse Square. We then walked through downtown to the park. Here's a video I took on Court Street.
(You'll hear a guy at the end of the video say "Homeless children..." As we walked the rest of the way to Riverfront Park, he told me about the urgent need to find places for homeless children to live. Our Mayor and City Council aren't doing enough about this. But that's a subject for another blog post.)
(2) Dealing with climate change is a Big Freaking Deal. The problem is seriously real.
Walking along with the crowd, enjoying the signs, chanting, singing, and such, some lyrics of a Buffalo Springfield song from the 1960's, "For What It's Worth," came to mind.
What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"
Sure, that's the nature of most demonstrations. Not the climate justice march, though.
There is no "other side" when it comes to preserving the habitability of Earth. Who is in favor of allowing human actions to endanger civilization as we know it?
Well, some people are -- those who are either willfully or ignorantly failing to heed the facts about climate change. So even though these facts are very well known, and beyond scientific dispute, here's a summary of the situation: a New York Times piece, "Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change."
In the end, though, experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies. So speaking up and exercising your rights as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.
...But even if those computer forecasts did not exist, a huge amount of evidence suggests that scientists have the basic story right. The most important evidence comes from the study of past climate conditions, a field known as paleoclimate research. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has fluctuated naturally in the past, and every time it rises, the Earth warms up, ice melts, and the ocean rises.
...Most of the attacks on climate science are coming from libertarians and other political conservatives who do not like the policies that have been proposed to fight global warming. Instead of negotiating over those policies and trying to make them more subject to free-market principles, they have taken the approach of blocking them by trying to undermine the science.
(3) Climate change deniers likely are running the City of Salem.
Efforts to combat harmful climate change have to occur at every level: global, national, state, local. Close to home, there's a lot that needs to be done right here in Salem. Unfortunately, Mayor Peterson and her right-wing City Council majority appear to be climate change deniers.
I wrote about this last January in a Salem Weekly Strange Up Salem column, "Salem fiddles while the planet burns."
This sort of giving-the-finger to people who care about preserving what’s left of the natural world may play well in Texas, but its become a major irritant to environmentally-minded Salemians.
Officials at City Hall currently are led by a Mayor, City Manager, and city councilors whose general attitude toward caring for our one and only Earth is decidedly at odds with the values of most local citizens and Oregonians as a whole.
Last year I wrote to them, asking if they believed global warming was happening, humans are mostly responsible, and we need to do something about it.
Only two out of the ten top City of Salem officials said “yes.”
The rest cowered in a science-denying hidey-hole, unwilling to admit that their support for environmentally destructive actions was at odds with the obvious necessity to do everything possible to avert catastrophic changes to the ability of our planet to support human civilization.
So while both the Earth and the western United States experienced record warmth in 2014; while ski resorts in Oregon face steadily declining snowpacks as hotter air causes more precipitation to fall as rain; while drought becomes an ever-increasing threat to farmland and forests…
Salem’s clueless politicians and corporate executives go on their merry Screw the Planet way.
We need to hold their feet to the fire, so Earth doesn't burn up. Every city leader -- in both the public and private sector -- needs to be asked the questions I asked of our Mayor and City Council last January. And the questions need to keep being asked until clear answers are given.
(1) Do you believe that global warming is occurring, and is causing the Earth's climate to change in various ways?
(2) Do you believe that humans are mostly responsible for the global warming/climate change that is occurring?
(3) Do you believe that humans need to engage in actions to deal with both the causes of global warming and its detrimental effects on humanity?
Like I said, this isn't a matter of "my side" and "your side." This isn't a liberal vs. conservative thing, or a Democrat vs. Republican thing.
This is about preserving the habitability of Planet Earth for humans and other living beings, including our children, grandchildren, and future generations.
If our City leaders don't know the climate change facts, they need to be educated.
If they know the facts and choose to deny them, they need to be voted out of office (if an elected official) or otherwise pressured to change their ways.