TOO OLD TO SKIP SCHOOL, BUT NOT TO MARCH
YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE WASHINGTON, D.C. Friday, 9/20/2019
by Rima Saliba, GWC friend and whale advocate
When one young activist at the Youth Climate Strike stood on the stage, with the Capitol building rising behind her, and shouted passionately into the mic, “…where are the parents….?”, I was able to respond with equal passion, “Here we are!”. I had not done this sort of thing before, but when my son told me about the climate march in D.C., I felt a moral obligation to participate as we are in a climate crisis, the global consequences which will be felt sooner than most anticipated. As a mother, it scares me to think about the planet that a child born today would have to face in 12 years or less. So, I thought to myself, get up, get out and march with the thousands of energetic youth and spread awareness of a revolutionary, nature -based, ethical solution to our climate crisis. I needed to do my part and spread the amazing connection between whales and CO2 capture!
The weather was perfect with bright blue skies and was warm enough to wear my “Whale Superhero of the Earth” t-shirt with some amazing facts about CO2 capture and whales on the back. I realized that I would need to carry a “sign” so I wouldn’t look like an “amateur” marcher. Of course, I couldn’t find any cardboard, paper, or markers (all usually cluttering the house), so I grabbed my bright pink t-shirt with the drawing of the “Genius Whale” on front and the climate facts on the back to carry as my “sign”.
My husband dropped me off at 19th and Pennsylvania as I thought the march was to start at the White House and end at the Capitol building…not a short walk I soon realized. When the mass of marchers reached the Capitol building some started climbing over the stone wall to the lawn. Being a first-time marcher, I got caught up in the fervor and hoisted myself up and over… only to fall onto the muddy ground on the other side. Fortunately, at a youth organized march there are plenty of young people to help one up. I told them, after my fall, that it was very clear why this was a movement for the “youth.” They immediately responded, “No way, you’re doing great!”
The speakers included Native American youth passionately talking about the land, others talking about the role of politics and capitalism exacerbating the climate crisis, and youth asking why they have to worry about these dire issues instead of the adults.
Their demands were clear: Green New Deal, respect of indigenous rights and treaties, sustainable agricultural systems, protection of biodiversity, and environmental justice for all.
The huge crowd was comprised of young adults, kids with their parents, and older adults. The crowd was diverse in ages, backgrounds and languages spoken. Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern spoke, Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar were also scheduled to speak. Organizations represented included 350.org, Zero Hour, Union of Concerned Scientists, GreenPeace, Fridays For Future, Sunrise Movement (for Green New Deal) and Island Press. Kids were playing with giant beach balls colored in blue and green to look like the earth. There were people beating on drums and one man weaving through the crowd playing a haunting melody on a recorder. Given the very depressing issue at hand, everyone was friendly, upbeat, smiling, and passionate…hopeful.
I passed out my “GLOBAL CALL TO ACTION” sheet with facts about a nature- based solution and some objectives of the GWC to protect the largest mammal on earth.
CALL TO ACTION – A WHALE-SAFE OCEAN
The Great Whale Conservancy is issuing a call to action to the international community, to businesses, and to all countries to:
Declare whales as an international public good to be protected and valued by all countries.
Create a “whale-safe” ocean by taking actions to halt the unintentional harm to the great whales due to ship strikes, entanglements and other man-made hazards.
Halt all commercial whaling.
The youth took the papers and said they would post them on social media, the adults didn’t want to carry anymore “things” (I could relate), but wanted to take pictures of the sheets. The back of my shirt with a list of facts became the focus of “paparazzi.” I spoke to anyone and everyone, youth, kids, and adults about the whales and their magnificent contribution to our planet. After all, Saving the Whales is Saving Ourselves.
I walked, no… to be honest, hobbled back to 19th and Pennsylvania with achy feet, sore backside, stiff knees still carrying my pink shirt sign and stopping for pictures of my back. Exhausted and energized.