It’s December 12th: Inhospitable weather today for a march and rally, I wondered how many people would show up. I got off the #4 bus at Division and SE 8th Avenue and was surprised by a couple of friendly people deboarding the bus after me. “Are you going to the climate march?” one asked me brightly, before two more joined us, all of us wrapped tight in our raincoats and hoods. We had to cross Division Street to make our way to the rally, but just as we crossed, a huge train came rolling through and blocked our way. I think that train must have taken at least ten minutes to go by, as we traded little quips about who exactly had sent this train and whether or not it was transporting coal or bitumen.
The LoveBomb Go-Go marching band was playing when I reached the rally – so upbeat and energetic, they lifted my heart and moved my body a little. When I arrived, it seemed all the demonstrators were just about fitting into the space under the bridge behind the Portland Opera House. But when I looked behind me several minutes later, I couldn’t even see anymore where the edge of the crowd was. I’ll be interested to learn the estimate of how many attended. It was one of those events where everyone’s eyes I caught were friendly. And why wouldn’t they be? As I recently explained to a friend, our Portland demo might just be a drop in the ocean, but it’s OUR drop! I was proud to be a particle in our drop.
I hadn’t had much sleep – less than four hours last night. So I confess I zoned out on all the wonderful speakers. Early on, someone handed me a “Climate Justice” sign to hold, and I was getting a little sleepy and weary on my feet, and tired of holding my sign. I was grateful when we began marching. On the bridge, I turned around and asked the people walking behind me, “Anyone want to hold a sign?” A boy of about nine years old responded affirmatively. I felt a little guilty giving it to him; I thought he might quickly find it a little heavy and unwieldy. I told him that if he got tired, he could pass it to someone else. Near the end of the walk I saw him again and he was still holding the sign. I asked him if he was okay, and he said “Fine!” So there you have it. The young ones will take up the baton – or the sign – and they might be just fine.
Towards the end of the walk were a group of people wearing clown noses and making funny faces, holding a banner that said, “Don’t call the GOP clowns. We are pissed!” Yup, and it’s no joke. The Republican Party of the United States may be the greatest single most powerful force in the world right now working AGAINST sane climate policy. As the New York Times reported, regarding the Paris accords, “In terms of its legal force, some elements of the accord will be voluntary … An accord that would have required legally binding targets for emissions reductions would be legally interpreted as a new treaty, and thus would be required to go before the Senate for ratification. But that proposal would be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate …” Wow. The rest of the world must be annoyed with us. I also read yesterday that, per capita, the U.S. has the highest percentage of climate deniers of any country.
To the beat of a drum, we marchers chanted “No more than/One-point-five!” for the first several minutes or so. I like that very much as a slogan, because science tells us that a global rise in temperature of 2 degrees Celsius is actually too high to avert the worst consequences of climate change, especially for island nations and coastal areas, whereas 1.5 degrees may yet be livable for most of the world. But I thought it was a slightly esoteric message for anyone who might be listening. Then again, who was listening? It was just us, reinforcing our own clarity on the concept. Later, at New Seasons, I told the checkout person that I’d been at the climate march, and she glowingly approved. Then, just as an experiment, I told her our little chant and asked if she understood it, and she did not. She was happy to have it explained though, which only took a few seconds. I wonder if it wouldn’t make a great bumper sticker actually – “No more than 1.5!” It might induce people to ask what it means, which would be great. It could become a meme. I’m serious.
by Marc Polonsky