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10/03/2013

Rally for Action on Climate

If you were in downtown D.C. last Thursday, you may have seen a polar bear or two roaming around. No, they weren’t real polar bears, but these costumed volunteers represent the real polar bears suffering because of climate change and Arctic drilling.

The bears gathered just outside the White House gates around noon to punctuate the Rally for Action on Climate and put a stop to Arctic drilling. They gathered in front of a giant iceberg surrounded by supporters donning t-shirts, polar bear hats, holding signs, and chanting,

“Hey Hey, Ho Ho. Arctic Drilling? Hell no!”

The rally, sponsored by the Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, and Care2.com, brought together speakers and supporters to “chill the drills” and present the White House with 523,000 signatures from Americans who oppose drilling in the Arctic Ocean. This rally marked the culmination of the national #Exiled Polar Bear Tour.

It is a well-known fact that Arctic drilling threatens an already fragile habitat and the inhabitants that live there, humans and wildlife alike. The IPCC confirmed last week in their report that human activity is the main cause of global climate change. These effects are most dramatic in the Arctic, warming at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the world. The Arctic acts like a refrigerator for the planet, and as the planet warms, the ice melts causing changing climates worldwide. In addition, the ice acts as the habitat for the polar bears and has been decreasing at an alarming rate.

The concern for the future of the Arctic brought together several dozen supporters and passionate speakers, such as New Jersey Representative Rush Holt and Greg Auriamma, a Presidential “Champion of Change” award winner and a New Jersey Sierra Club member affected by Hurricane Sandy.

“I’m with you guys,” Holt said. “Chill, baby chill. Stop stop stop.”

“You are responsible for the Earth,” Auriamma said. “You are responsible to make it better, to save the polar bears.”

The rally was punctuated by Allison Warden, an Inupiat Eskimo performance artist who was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. She performed original raps and detailed her personal experience with the effects of climate change on the Arctic.

With tears in her eyes, Warden said, “If you see what I see, [polar bears] are really suffering.”

In her rap, Warden said, “I say no. It’s our homelands. We’ve been living there for thousands of years. How does a village of 250 fight a multinational corporation?”

Athan Manuel, the Sierra Club’s director of land’s protection, drove home the idea of the day.

“We have to send the message for [the polar bears]. This is the last place we should drill.”

The President needs to listen to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have spoken up in defense of this region and protect our natural places.

“Thousands of Americans are asking the administration to keep offshore oil exploration out of the Arctic,” said Jessica Ennis of Earthjustice. “Our leadership should be listening to the scientists and voters instead of corporate interests.”

“We need your voices,” Warden said. “We need your help.”

-- by Cindy Carr

 


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