Climate Change Rally Has ‘60s Feel

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BOSTON — If they had global warming activism during the 1960s, it might have looked like Boston Common this past weekend.

Loudspeakers boomed Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of “If I Had A Hammer,” and several Pete Seeger songs as about 2,500 people gathered for what organizers called the People’s Climate Mobilization Rally on Saturday.

 “We are here today because there is no ‘Planet B’,” said the rally’s emcee, Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Minister for Ecological Justice at Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain.

But if manmade effect on the climate was the main stream, the rally had many tributaries. A sea of signs indicated the long list of concerns shared by those present:  jobs, justice, the international refugee crisis, Black Lives Matter, AIDS, corporate greed, mass incarceration, LGBTQ advocacy, immigrant rights, gender equality, anti-war efforts, and American Indian rights — among others.  At one point a chant rose up: “Whose Planet?  Our Planet! When we fight, we win!”

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was booed on several occasions, most notably when one speaker criticized his push to privatize the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

One of the half-dozen speakers, Tyrék Lee, an officer of a local chapter of Service Employees International Union, linked global warming to other political topics, pledging that his union will fight to help its members by supporting government action to protect clean air, water, and energy.

 “Climate change is a racial justice issue.  Climate change is an economic issue,” said Lee, executive vice president of 1199SEIU Massachusetts.

The event coincided with similar rallies held Saturday in Washington D.C. and elsewhere in the United States. Also on Saturday, news outlets reported that the federal Environmental Protection Agency removed the term “climate change” from its web site — which intensified the anger and frustration of many climate change activists with President Donald Trump and his administration. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a CNBC interview in March that he is skeptical about the role carbon dioxide plays in climate change.

In Boston, Pruitt’s comments were on the mind of software engineer John Brayton, 43, of Haverhill.

“I’m concerned about the climate and global warming in general and I’m even more concerned that we have a president who doesn’t know what he is doing and we have an EPA administrator who doesn’t believe in climate change.  I just want to do my part to have that addressed and to get Trump impeached and to get a decent president who will address the real problems that we have,” Brayton said.

A common theme running through the day was the exasperation activists feel with political indifference and inertia on local, state, and federal levels.

Event volunteer Aileen Kelley, chapter coordinator for the Sierra Club of Massachusetts said:  “Since the 2016 presidential election, we have been getting calls from upset people needing a sympathetic ear. People are bombarded with fake news, as well as threats to over 50 years of environmental protections, and they don’t know how to process these illogical threats to our beautiful planet.”

Still, Kelley is optimistic, and said she is determined to continue her environmental advocacy.  “I choose to be confident in our movement and know this work will succeed,” Kelley said. “Besides, it just feels better.”

After the rally, a religion expert who attended told New Boston Post in an interview that concern about climate change should move religious Christians.

“Care for God’s creation is an identifying characteristic of what it means to be a Christian, as is human communities’ social justice advocacy,” said John Hart, professor of Christian Ethics at Boston University’s School of Theology. “I have worked on these issues for more than forty years as socioecological ethics, and have especially appreciated Pope Francis I’s social justice-ecology encyclical Laudato Si, in which he relates these two concerns under the rubric of integral ecology. It is for these reasons that I participate today.  Here, the speakers integrate social justice and environmental being.”

Some climate change activists see indifference to global warming as a form of imperialism.

Kristen Wyman, outreach and program coordinator for Gedakina Inc., which serves American Indians with outdoor programs designed to help them combat “systemic poverty, oppression, and violence,” said dialogue about climate change must continue.

“A society based on conquest is not sustainable,” Wyman told the crowd.

Reverend White-Hammond, a former pupil of Hart’s, told the crowd that a series of future events is planned in May to keep the climate conversation going.


John Brayton, of Haverhill, Massachusetts holds up a sign protesting what he sees as the Trump administration’s indifference to global warming during the climate change rally on Boston Common on Saturday, April 29, 2017.
Photo by Lori Brannigan Kelly for New Boston Post.