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In the 11th hour, make your voice heard on climate change

Honestly, it seemed absurd to think of attending a protest in January with a forecast of minus 9 wind chill. However, we just dressed for the weather and steeled ourselves for a long day.

And it was a long day, after picking up other protesters in Amherst, we arrived in South Portland. Maine, at 11 a.m. with ample time to try to stay warm as a large crowd began to gather. By the time the march started, a hour and a half later, well over a thousand people had assembled. Despite the cold wind and frigid temps, it was a sunny day, and perfect for a highly motivated group of people of all ages and backgrounds to express their opposition to a possible pipeline carrying tar sands crude oil from Montreal, Canada to Casco Bay, Maine.

There were the requisite speeches, the supportive crowd, the call and repeat chanting, signs and more signs, even a fun, New Orleans-style ensemble that made the march through the winding streets of South Portland feel like a joyous parade instead of a political rally. And here’s the thing, I really hate going to rallies. I don’t want to chant no matter how relevant the message and I don’t like standing around waiting for events to get going while my back is hurting and my face is getting wind burnt. But I was very glad that I went and it only strengthened my resolve to go to the next big, anti-tar sands rally in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 7.

What participating in these protests confirms for me is that it matters that people show up; that it draws both media attention and notice from our elected officials.

In order to have President Obama make the very hard political choices he will have to make to address climate change, he needs the people to prove that they are willing to fight for it, too. We have to show all those people who would seek to undermine real change for reducing greenhouse gases that there is a growing constituency of people who understand that it is time to act and time to make these necessary changes — it is approaching the now-or-never moment.

It is not enough to understand the science, it is not enough to make personal sacrifice in our every day lives and it is not enough to give lip service to the climate crisis.

This is the eleventh hour, this is when we either take responsibility for our future or we allow our wishful thinking, and our too-busy–to-participate rationalization to blind us to the serious consequences of our inaction.

Ninety-seven percent of the world’s climatologists agree that the current upward concentration of carbondioxide is driving unprecedented climate transformation with dire implications for every living thing on earth, it is immoral to ignore the mandate.

What does that action look like? First and foremost, stand up and be counted in any and all ways you can. I walked alongside a woman being pushed in a wheel chair and young people with babies in strollers. Show that you are willing to go the distance, participate in these protests no matter how much you hate them. If you absolutely cannot get there, send money to organizers like 350.org, to make it possible for others to go who want to but can’t afford the bus fare. Relentlessly communicate with your elected officials — local, state, and federal. Write a letter, send an email or make a phone call to bring pressure to bear.

If you think that there are other people out there doing the hard work of fighting climate change, you are right. But there are also very powerful corporate entities that are wasting no time in trying to exploit every opportunity to capitalize on the changing energy landscape. Instead of being terrified by the rapidly melting Artic ice, they are trying to find new places to drill in the Artic for oil. Instead of investing billions in renewable energy, corporations like Exxon/Mobil are investing billions in exploiting environmentally catastrophic oil reserves like the tar sands and doing everything in their power to get these carbon bombs onto the world market.

We have to leverage our courage and our commitment. We have to prove that we will not give up our democracy, our environmental health, and our future in order for a few people to get wealthy and the rest of us to be left with a degraded, possibly uninhabitable planet. This is the eleventh hour and the clock is still ticking. What are we waiting for?

Ceacy Henderson is a Colrain resident.

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