Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Forward on Climate Rally

Those of you that know me well, know that I am passionate about protecting our environment and spreading the word about how everyone can make a difference. This blog post is about an awesome experience I had doing exactly that. This adventure took place on a COLD, windy day in the middle of February on the downtown mall in Washington, D.C. I was there for the Forward on Climate Rally, to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline and raise awareness about climate change... easily the biggest issue facing our society and yet one of the least addressed. 
Official Logo of the Rally
This rally was about so much more than that though. It was about proving to those of us that care so deeply about trying to protect this planet that we are not alone. It was about having fun with friends while restoring hope. It was about participating in something that allowed us to vent our frustrations with the government about their blind eye towards fixing this problem. Most of all, it was about coming together as a bunch of concerned individuals to make a statement: We care about stopping climate change!
Even the Polar Bears get it
So when I first heard about this rally in an e-mail from my buddy +Kurt, I knew I had to go. It was on a Sunday which worked out perfectly with my work schedule; I could easily take off and not be missed. In the weeks leading up to the rally, I got TONS of e-mails from (founding organization of the rally), The Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy,, CCAN, League of Conservation Voters, WWF, and so many more... all encouraging me to go. It quickly became very obvious that this was going to be a big deal.  Sure enough, when the day arrived... the mall was swarming with climate activists, braving the bitter cold to make their voices heard.
A glimpse of the huge crowd
Originally my plan for getting to the rally was to simply take a train from Fredericksburg, therefore avoiding any traffic delays and reducing my carbon footprint by using mass transit. That was before I convinced my friend Hector to join me though. When I told Hector about the rally, he jumped at the opportunity to participate in something so exciting, and he suggested that we ride our bikes to the mall so we could get around easily. That sounded like a great plan to me, so we loaded our bikes on the back of his Honda and left Fred that morning around 8 am... fully bundled up and prepared for the cold. Or so we thought.
2 wheels Rock! And roll...
Hector parked his car in a hotel parking lot near the Rosslyn metro station, and we biked over the Key Bridge into the city. Talk about windy... I almost thought I was going to get blown over at one point. Hector (same guy that introduced me to DC Bike Party) previously worked at a bike shop in Georgetown called Revolution Cycles, so he knew the area well. After a brisk (COLD) ride through the city, we arrived on the downtown mall by the Lincoln Memorial. The rally didn't start til noon, but even at 10:30 there were still plenty of groups meeting up and starting to brandish their signs. Hector and I decided to bike up and down the mall to get a better idea of exactly what was happening. This was my first time biking around DC, so that was a thrill in its own right... dodging traffic, running lights, and seeing the city in a new light.
Happy Hector!
After a trip or two up and down the mall, we were starting to wonder what else we were going to do while we waited for our other friends to arrive. Kurt lives in DC, so he wasn't planning on arriving until a bit later. Our other friends +Kristina Scrimshaw and +Kelsey Voss were also coming but not planning on showing up for a little while since they had to fight with the challenge of finding a parking spot. I had packed a water bottle full of Kraken Rum and the original plan was to save it for celebrating that evening.... but given the sub freezing temps and wind chill, we decided it was time to release the Kraken!
Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of Rum!
That may have been the best decision we made all day... that little bit of rum warmed us right up, and brought on a new level of excitement. I was instantly ready to spontaneously start a dance party or scream at the top of my lungs, whatever the moment called for. About this time, I got a text from an unknown phone # letting me know that Kurt had lost his phone. So we arranged to meet at a specific location just like the old days, and then observed the huge variety of folks arriving for the rally while we waited for him.
Hey Coal, Move Over... it's time for Wind and Solar!
While we were waiting, we scored some stickers, posters, and even some cool polar bear hats that read "Chill the Drills." We were decked out and ready to Rally! Soon after that, Kurt showed up and expressed his jealousy about our cool Rally swag. We teased him for being a doper and losing his phone, which he apparently found, and then we started getting in position to hear some of the speeches before we actually marched. 
Our view of the stage
The speeches given that cold February afternoon were eye-opening and inspiring. The stage was graced by many important leaders, including Van Jones - founder of Rebuild the Dream, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, The Rev. Lennox Yearwood - Hip Hop Caucus president and CEO, Crystal Lameman from Beaver Lake Cree First Nations Tribe in Canada, and of course Bill McKibben, (founder of who stated perfectly: "All I ever wanted to see... was a movement of people to stop climate change... and NOW I've seen it!!" I will never forget the warm feeling that rose within me as I joined thousands of other people in cheering him on in agreement. Each speech was different, but the chorus was the same: We have to stop this pipeline, to protect the future of our planet.
Kurt and me soaking it all in
Slightly before the speeches began, Kristina and Kelsey showed up so we were able to meet up with them and increase our climate change fighting posse to 5 members. I thought it was so cool that my friends were just as interested in being a part of this movement as I was. It made the whole experience so much more fun and memorable, and it renewed my confidence that people our age want to make a difference for the future. The crowd that day was anything but homogeneous though; we were surrounded by young kids, college students, middle-aged folks, and even some old ladies that had to of been over 70. They all got it. This issue is important, and we've got to come together to do something about it!
Kristina and Kelsey join the gang
The general plan for the afternoon was to have everyone meet by the Washington Monument, gather to listen to the speeches, and then march around downtown DC in a large loop, passing by the White House and hopefully attracting Obama's attention. But before we launched ourselves into this endeavor of parading down the streets chanting about stopping this pipeline... we had to get properly excited! As if the raw energy of tens of thousands of people coming together for a common cause wasn't enough to get to get your blood pumping... they introduced some music to start getting everyone groovin'.
The sun smiled down on us 
Here's a short video of us getting excited before we started the march. The only problem was that there were SO many people that when we actually tried to start moving, there was hardly any space since everyone was getting jammed up while trying to squeeze onto the street at once. That's an awesome problem though.
As you can see in the video, I really didn't need much encouragement to get excited. Something about large crowds create an energy in me that makes me wanna yell and make some ruckus, especially when its for a good cause. This is part of the reason why I enjoy DC Bike Parties so much... hootin and hollerin is encouraged. Eventually we made it out onto the street amongst a mass of picketing planet lovers, and the creative chanting began... "Hey!! Obama! .. We don't want no climate drama!!" 
Couldn't of said it better
 The route had us starting off on Constitution Ave and walking towards 17th, then heading all the way up to Pennsylvania Ave where we strolled past the White House, and then we turned on 15th to head back towards the mall. It turns out Obama wasn't even home... he was actually playing golf with some oil execs in Florida. That was disappointing news, to say the least... but there's no way he can ignore what happened. How he chooses to react though is still being determined.
How Obama should be reacting to the pipeline proposal
While we were on 17th we took a much needed bathroom break at the Cocoran Gallery of Art, and then got right back in the action. Throughout the march there were individuals camped out with massive speakers, blaring tunes that helped inspire energy and made the event so much more fun. Here's a glimpse of what one of those impromptu dance stations looked like:
It was fun, it was good exercise, and it was for an amazing cause. What more can you ask for?? As we rounded the corner onto 15th Street... the crowd was definitely thinning out, and we could clearly see folks leaving the streets for the warm comfort of nearby coffee shops. That was fine by us though, just meant we had more space to move around and "physically express ourselves."
Me and Kurt in full on Rally mode
 Eventually we made it back to the starting location at the stage, and had our spirits lifted by the announcement that there were more than 50,000 in our ranks that day!! We screamed our throats hoarse,  then danced our hearts out on the grass and had our minds blown as Eve made a throwback appearance for a spur-of-the-moment celebratory concert. The music was over before we knew it (she was clearly freezing) and Kristina and Kelsey quickly split to the warmth of their car. Kurt, Hector and I biked to a nearby cafe where we ate some lunch, and rejoiced as we regained feeling in our extremities and color in our cheeks.
Proud to have been one of them
As I ate some broccoli cheddar soup and started peeling off layers, we met some girls who had taken one of the many buses into the area from Vermont. They were students at the University of Vermont in Burlington, and they couldn't have been more pleased that they took the long trip down for this event. I was impressed at their devotion, and we chatted about how they planned to spread the word and keep the energy from this rally alive when they returned home. As I am writing this blog so many months after this all went down, I still feel inspired by this event to do EVERYTHING I possibly can to make a difference.
By our powers combined....
So I will leave you with this thought. Everything little thing you do makes a difference... and every time you choose to ride your bike instead of drive, or eat locally instead of at McDonald's, or to simply spread the word to your friends and family about how important this issue of climate change really is... you are actually doing big things. Because if everyone did these things, it would make a HUGE difference. Keep up the fight to stop climate change, and have fun doing so! Now, go outside and appreciate the natural world. And if anyone asks you if you support the Keystone XL Pipeline, be sure to tell them...
That hippo was for you +Chelsea Genack :) 
--Brewkeeper, Over and Out!


  1. You released the Kraken?!?!?! HAHAHAHA I love you man! freaking hilarious. Awesome blog, as always! I will take many pictures of your going away party and you can blog about that one too, yes?!:)

  2. That picture just made my day. I love this hippo bond we have. ^.^
    Your experience sounds really cool, it is nice to see that you're not just sitting around complaining about something you care about!

    1. Haha I'm glad you liked it! I think I'm gonna try to squeeze a hippo in every blog post from now on :)