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New Mexican Treks to D.C. for "Forward On Climate" Rally

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PHOTO: A crowd of about 50,000 participated in the "Forward On Climate" rally in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Daniel Kessler, 350.org.
PHOTO: A crowd of about 50,000 participated in the "Forward On Climate" rally in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Daniel Kessler, 350.org.
 By Renee BlakeContact
February 20, 2013

WASHINGTON - Environmental concerns around the world compelled one New Mexican to give up two nights' sleep for a long bus ride to a rally in Washington.

Last weekend's "Forward On Climate" rally in the nation's capital attracted people from across the United States and Canada, numbering in the tens of thousands. One of those in attendance was Sister Joan Brown, executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, a national faith-based organization concerned about the environment.

Brown said she viewed her attendance as a pilgrimage, inspired by someone in the IPL congregations.

"One of our congregations has a congregant who works four months out of the year in Antarctica," she said. "He has said, and not just him, that the temperatures in the Antarctic have raised nine degrees over the winter - and the research has shown five degrees over the summer. That's enormous."

Brown said she also went because she wanted New Mexicans to be represented at the rally.

One of the main topics was protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, which Brown said would increase pollution while exporting oil to other countries and diverting American investment away from renewable energy.

Tom Steyer, a former hedge-fund manager and philanthropist, addressed the crowd about the pipeline and U.S. energy policy.

"Today we have to dare to say 'no' to the Keystone pipeline," he told the rally. "And today, we have to decide to invent a cleaner, safer, cheaper energy future together."

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune was optimistic at the rally about the momentum of the environmental movement, despite the natural disasters and political decisions of recent years.

"Ten years or so ago, President George W. Bush and (Vice President) Dick Cheney proposed a plan to build 200 coal-fired power plants all across this country. As a movement, we have shut down more than 300 proposed and existing coal-fired power plants, all across the country."

Organizer Daniel Kessler of 350.org estimated that some 50,000 participants attended the rally - but he said there is more to be done.

"We're going to be calling for some big stuff over the next few months," he said. "We have a national divestment campaign that's up and running on over 250 college campuses, asking campuses to divest from fossil-fuel companies, and we have some national days of action around taking the fight directly to the fossil-fuel companies."

Kessler said those national days of action are slated for July and September.

Audio and video from the rally is online at forwardonclimate.org.

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