This week I traveled from my post as a Field Organizer in Baltimore up the well-seasoned train tracks of the mid-Atlantic to Philadelphia to help out Jillian, my fellow Organizer based in PA. Looking out the window on the train ride, the skyline was spotted with coal-fired power plants and massive chemical facilities. Although I admittedly see the world through an activist's eyes, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the fight we have ahead of us if we want to convert our country to a clean energy economy and break free from our addictions to fossil fuels and the stronghold that industry has on our way of life.
I made the trip to Philly to help organize a last-minute rally held today to draw attention to the fact that this business as usual won’t do, and that the American people, the labor community and business owners from coast to coast are ready to attack climate change head on.
This week, the United States Chamber of Commerce held a Regional Government Affairs Conference in Philadelphia. Speaking at the conference today was the Chamber President Tom Donohue. The chamber has been the source of much media attention in recent months as their stance on climate change and health care reform have been drawn into question. Among the various headlines we learned that the group, which is comprised of thousands of businesses ranging from your local diner to giants like Nike, has spent $34 million this year lobbying against clean energy and health care reform legislation.
What Greenpeace and a slew of other groups, businesses, and most importantly the American public have realized is that Tom Donohue and his Chamber are lying about climate change. By doing this they are only representing a few corporate CEOs and not American businesses and the public. That’s why major corporations like Apple, PG&E and Levi’s are quitting the chamber
, because they understand the severity of, and are committed to tackling, climate change. By fighting real progress, they argue, the Chamber is not accurately representing the views and priorities of its members.
So at noon today, a chilly fall day in Philadelphia, while Donohue spoke to the crowd inside, we stood outside on a busy street corner, about one hundred strong, to tell him that he can’t speak for us anymore. Addressing our crowd were health care advocates, environmentalists and labor union members. What brought us all together is what is uniting Americans in communities everywhere: we came out in droves at this time last year to vote for then-Senator Obama because we believed he would sideline people like Tom Donahue and because we won’t stand for lies about climate change anymore. You don’t have to be an expert to know that climate change is the greatest challenge of our time and we can’t afford the policies of the past if we want a shot at a sound future.
I had a great trip up to Pennsylvania, and not because I spent time with a colleague I rarely see and got to meet her wonderful volunteers
, or because I got to watch the Phillies beat the dreaded Yankees (although that was all memorable). It was a great trip because as I sit writing this on the train back down to Baltimore I look out at the smoke stacks and I don’t feel that overwhelming challenge of a country barreling down the tracks to climate destruction. I feel a real sense of pride to be part of a growing grassroots movement in this country that has had too many years of the status quo and is finally standing as a united front to call on the true culprits to use their power for good and stop climate change before it’s too late.