We play highlights from the “Forward on Climate” rally that drew tens of thousands to Washington D.C.'s National Mall Sunday. Protesters from across the United States and Canada urged President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would deliver tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Organizers described Sunday's protest as “the largest climate rally in history,” and Reverend Lennox Yearwood compared it to Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington for civil rights. We hear from speakers including Van Jones, Obama’s former green jobs adviser; Canadian indigenous leader Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation; and Bill McKibben of 350.org. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Tens of thousands of people gathered on Washington’s National Mall Sunday to urge President Obama to reject the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Organizers of the Forward on Climate event described it as the largest climate rally in history. Protesters displayed a mock pipeline with the motto, quote, “Separate oil and—separate oil and state.” The proposed 1,700-mile pipeline would deliver tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Texas. The Reverend Lennox Yearwood compared the rally to Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington for civil rights. The protest was organized by 350.org, the Sierra Club and the Hip Hop Caucus, among others. Speakers included President Obama’s former green jobs adviser, Van Jones.
VAN JONES: Well, this is it. This is the last minute in the last quarter of the biggest, most important game humanity has ever played. This is it. One thing I know, having worked in this town, the simple maxim, “If you don’t fight for what you want, you deserve what you get.” If you don’t fight for what you want, you deserve what you get.
I had the honor of working for this president, and I want to direct my message to him. President Obama, all the good that you have done, all the good you can imagine doing, will be wiped out, wiped out by floods, by fires, by superstorms, if you fail to act now to deal with this crisis that is a gun—a gun—pointed at the head of the future. Everything you have done. History will judge you 20 years from now based on one decision alone. That decision is not in the hands of the Congress. That decision is not in the hands of any governors. That decision is not in the hands of any mayors or any dogcatchers. The decision is in your hands, Mr. President. It’s in your hands. Your hands.
The decision to let this pipeline come through America is the most fateful decision you will ever make, Mr. President. It would be like jabbing a dirty needle into this country from Canada. It would be like lighting a fuse on a carbon bomb. That’s what it would be like doing, Mr. President. And you cannot allow that to happen. If the pipeline goes through, Mr. President, the first thing it runs over will not be farmland. The first thing it runs over will not be small towns. If you let this pipeline go through, Mr. President, the first thing it runs over is the credibility of the president of the United States of America. That’s the first thing it runs over.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama’s former green jobs czar, Van Jones. Canadian indigenous leader Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation traveled from British Columbia to attend Sunday’s rally.
CHEIF JACQUELINE THOMAS: I am a mother of four and a grandmother of one, and I was raised by my own grandmother. She was a traditional medicine woman of my people. And I learned early on the value of our environment. She was known as Dr. Sophie Thomas, and she—and her words are still with me today. And what she told us was when we take care of the land, the land would take care of us. If we destroy this land, we will destroy ourselves.
I’m speaking on behalf of the Yinka Dene Alliance from northern British Columbia. And Yinka Dene translates to “People of the Earth.” I am part of the Dene people from the northern reaches of the Northwest Territories, down to my cousins, the Navajo of Arizona. We formed an alliance to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, which plans to bring tar sands oil to the coast of British Columbia, which will then be put on tankers to go to the Asian markets. The Yinka Dene Alliance is opposed to irresponsible, environmental-damaging projects that puts our communities, our water, our culture, our land, our fish, our animals, and most importantly, our plants, at risk. It puts at risk my neighbors to the east of me that live at the tar sands. The government doesn’t recognize these people, and these people have been dying of mysterious cancers. Their water is polluted. Their animals are sick. And Mother Earth is sick.
Enbridge really has brought our communities together in Canada, because we’ve had oil spills, and you’ve also had oil spills in this country, because oil will spill. It’s just a matter of when. They’ve spilled in the Kalamazoo, which I hear cannot be cleaned up. They’ve broken their promises, and I understand it’s even Enbridge that has done that. They’ve spilled oil in Red Deer, Alberta. They’ve spilled oil in my sister, the territories of the Lubicon Cree. They’ve spilled oil in the Northwest Territories, the Dene brothers and sisters that I know from the Northwest Territories. And, of course, who can forget Exxon Valdez? Of course, also, in most recent memory, we have had the BP spill, which was on the news day after day, month after month. They have hurt the brothers and sisters of the Houma Nation that my sister has visited. Never in my life have I ever seen white and Native work together until now. Thank you, Enbridge, for doing this work for me.
AMY GOODMAN: Canadian indigenous leader Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation. One of the main organizers of Sunday’s Forward on Climate rally was the environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.
BILL McKIBBEN: All that I ever wanted to see, all I ever wanted to see, was a movement of people to stop climate change. And now I’ve seen it! You guys, you guys look so beautiful. I’ve been meeting people all day. It’s hometown heroes like our friends at CCAN. It’s heroes like those people who have been blocking Keystone with their bodies down in Texas. It’s people who understand that the fight against fracking and against coal ports and against taking the tops off mountains is ultimately the fight for a living plant. It’s people—it’s people who lived through Sandy and people who survived the drought, some of whom I got to go to jail with last week. It is the students at 256 colleges who are now fighting the fossil fuel industry head-on to force divestment, the biggest student movement in decades. It is—it is all of you. You are the antibodies kicking in as the planet tries to fight its fever.
We have—we have waited a long time to get started. We’ve already seen the Arctic melt. Our colleagues in 191 countries at 350.org tell us every day about some new drought, some new flood. Because we’ve waited this long, the easiest answers are no longer enough. We’re going have to start making tough decisions. Our theme has to be: When you are in a hole, stop digging. Above all, above all, stop the Keystone pipeline. The president—the president can do that with a single stroke of his pen. And if he does, he will become the first world leader to veto a big project because it’s bad for the climate. That—that—that would be a legacy and a signal to the rest of the world.
And so we will keep making our case. We’ll follow him and the secretary of the state around the country. And as this spring goes on, we’ll unite that fight with a focus on all the other holes we’re still digging, too. And as summer comes on, this movement will just pick up. I want everybody to circle those days toward the end of July that are on average the hottest each year. We’re going to try and make them hot politically, too, this year.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben of 350.org. The Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly, who starred as the character Kate Austen in the show Lost, also spoke at Sunday’s climate rally.
EVANGELINE LILLY: I am shamed of what my country is doing. I’m ashamed that we’re knocking on your door with dirty oil. I want to stand up here as a Canadian, and I want to say I am sorry to the workers in Canada and the workers in America who have to go home and look at their kids in the eye and know they’re damaging their future. And I want to say yes to jobs that allow Americans and Canadians to go home and look their kids in the eye and say, “I’m fighting for you. I am working for you.”
AMY GOODMAN: Casey Camp, a member of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, also attended Sunday’s Forward on Climate rally. She said oil development is the latest challenge facing her Native American nation.
CASEY CAMP: Now we’re suffering environmental genocide as a result of ConocoPhillips’ refinery being on our land, as well as many pipelines underneath us. And now Keystone and Keystone XL are disrupting our lives, as well as the lives of our relatives in the northern country. And we’re here to make a difference. We’re here to be in solidarity with all of us who understand that we have a very slim opportunity to make human life continue to exist. And that’s our choice.
AMY GOODMAN: Casey Camp, a member of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma. And if you want to go to our website, we have an in-depth page on the Keystone XL pipeline at democracynow.org.
When we come back, Harry Belafonte wins the highest honor of the NAACP and gives a major address in Los Angeles and New York. He is introduced by a man who could be the next mayor—the next senator of New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker. Stay with us.