Dear President Obama,
Last Sunday my wife and I took a drive down to see you, along with 40 to 50,000 other friends and supporters of yours, and we were so disappointed you weren’t home, that you were…playing golf in Florida? We just wanted to let you know that we will have your back when you make your formal announcement rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.
Like most of us who were there, I froze my toes and fingers but it was all so worth it. Woven throughout the stirring speeches, creative signage, chants, costumes, music, and footsteps was a subtle yet very powerful message that can no longer be ignored. When you spoke in your State of Nation address of putting a strong focus on climate change issues in the next four years, you inspired us, you gave us hope. But hope is not nearly enough – we are ready, individually and collectively for action and we are demanding action.
Last Sunday 40 or 50,000 people from your voting base showed up. We were all colors, all ages, maybe even all incomes. And we were joined by a large number of our 1st Nation and non-native Canadian friends. Buses came from as far away as Texas. I have been involved in politics for 40 years, been to so many rallies and meetings, and I have never felt such an overwhelming strength of commitment, clarity of purpose and cooperation. This was an example of grassroots action at its most pure and powerful. I’m quite sure this is because everyone who was there believes two things:
1) Whether it is hydrofracking in Pennsylvania, mountain-top removal in West Virginia or, perhaps the biggest environmental abomination in North America, the tar sands in Alberta, we can no longer tolerate our water, soil and air being poisoned and our property being economically ruined for the benefit of a very few and detriment to the rest of us. And we are willing to do whatever is necessary to end that.
2) If we do not begin to take dramatic steps to curb carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions we and certainly our children can look forward to a very dismal and possibly even no future. It looks more and more like we may literally be fighting for our lives. And naturally we are willing to do whatever is necessary to win that fight.
President Obama, you have done so many wonderful things since you took office and we all thank you for that. But more and more of us are trying to imagine how an economy is going to function when superstorms become an annual event, when 100 year floods become 5 or even 1 year floods, when so many Joplin-sized tornados happen in a season they all blur together, when droughts and wildfires never end. Yes the Affordable Care Act matters, yes Civil Rights and Immigration Reform matter, yes economic justice matters, but this is the world we live in now and we believe that there is nothing more important than preventing Climate Chaos from ramping up and getting worse or even unstoppable.
President Obama, as you well know, when a president takes office, for better or worse, he (or she) inherits the messes of those who preceded him, and how skillfully he navigates through that mire is a factor in determining his legacy. In your case there was the crumbling economy and two terrible wars. Personally I think for the most part you have done amazingly well. But now the ravages of Climate Change are thrown on your plate and this is where your legacy will mostly be anchored. Many are saying that in twenty years, much of what you have done for the country and the world will already be forgotten but your decision regarding the Keystone pipline will not. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that. More likely, if you make the right decision, it will become just one more of the many good decisions in your record. However, if you make the wrong decision, whether it’s fair or not, every bad climate event going forward will in some small way have your fingerprints on it.
There are few people who understands the power of grassroots organization better than you. It is what brought into office in 2008 and reelected you in 2012. (In your 2008 campaign my then 18 year old daughter was in an adoring crowd of 40,000 in Albuquerque, NM, nearly fainting from the crush, but so excited, so moved!) And here it is again. There were tens of thousands of us at your door and tens of thousands more around the country rallying in solidarity. The next time, I have no doubt, there will be many, many more. Like Climate Change, we are growing rapidly. We are inclusive, caring and passionate, collaborating and coordinating in new and exciting ways, because we are all in this together and can’t afford to fail. We will not be defeated or ignored. Next time we come knocking, how about joining us?