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Susie Cagle on the Keystone XL rally

Interesting conflict:

In front of the White House early Sunday afternoon, a young man deftly scaled a small leafless tree, to the shock and dismay of the older activists around him. One police officer suggested that he come down, which he eventually did — only to be yelled at by a woman who said he’d damaged not only the tree but the entire climate movement.

“But you’re not letting us talk,” he told her. “It’s just all about you.” ...

This little altercation defined a tension I saw throughout the Forward on Climate rally Sunday: Climate change reformists and climate change radicals allied tentatively, uncomfortably, against a crazy warming world. When one calls for the largest climate rally in U.S. history, one cannot really control who shows up and what their protest tactics and goals might be. Reform, or revolt? Coax, or prod? Organic, pesticide-free carrot or sustainably harvested, renewable stick?

The concept that Obama is our friend and he’s going to help us is ridiculous. He is the enemy, by all accounts,” said Max’s friend Josh. (Both men declined to give their last names.)

“We shouldn’t be approaching him and saying, ‘We support you in your change.’ We should be approaching him and saying, ‘You fucking start this change or we’re going to do it ourselves,’” said Max. “We’re going to take over and cross this fence and walk over to that White House.”


The logo of the Forward on Climate event itself, a play on Obama’s own campaign logo, defined the thrust of the day. The star on Sunday was not actually the reviled Keystone XL pipeline but the absent president, and the carefully permitted and monitored rally did not have the character of a protest movement. “The march today looked like the movement that elected President Obama,”’s Jamie Henn wrote on Sunday. Many of the marchers would doubtless agree — but at least some would resent the comparison.

The gay bundlers and the Hispanics blackmailed Obama before the election by threatening to withhold their votes -- and they got such policy outcomes as the Obama administration is actually capable of delivering because they did. People like McKibben and the environmentalists generally didn't, and they got squat.

There's a lesson for us here!

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Indeed. The mainstream environmental groups still believe in "working the system". Which might be practical, if they were rich or popular enough. And they aren't.

I've noticed McKibben has gotten more radical over the past several years. He's starting to get it. But, as a participant of the rally and march, it was disappointing to hear so many people make appeals to Obama to "do the right thing". As though Obama had a moral sense. It was mostly a mass display of well-trained authoritarian subjects.

But the young men cited in the post get it. The marchers from the Socialist groups, Occupy, and Days of Rage get it. Begging the President is futile, and demeaning. Power, legitimate, lawful power, resides with the people. Not the despicable Obama and the worse Congress.