Front and Center at Today’s Protest

by Kate Smolski

September 27, 2007

CindyIt’s been a pretty crazy week here in the US, with the UN meeting on climate in New York at the beginning of the week then down to Bush’s farce here in Washington which started today.

Arriving at the end of the Mall early this morning, as the sun was coming up, I saw a huge flock of Canada geese milling about on the grass. I figured they were probably on the way south from Alaska where last month the ice melt was more than 1 million square km more than last year’s record low. What will climate change do to their Alaskan summer home?

The other flock on the lawn of the Mall was the tidiest looking bunch of environmentalists I’d seen in a while. Everyone had dusted off their suits for the dignified protest we were going to do outside the meeting.

The media was gathering, and delegates to the meeting starting to go in.

Let’s be clear: there is a world of difference between the UN and the Bush meeting. The UN one was born out of concern at the lack of international action on climate. Today’s meeting in Washington is about Bush trying to deflect criticism on climate change ahead of the US elections next year. He has no intention of taking any real action and, instead, is trying to stop that action happening without him. The only part Bush played in the UN meeting was going to the official dinner.

So outside the State Department, about 50 people from Greenpeace and three other groups marched up the street groups with a big banner reading “Bush: wrong way on global warming” and went straight to the front of the building. The protest went on for about three hours before most of them were arrested, including the head of Greenpeace US, John Passacantando.

I was running round dealing with the many media milling about, so wasn’t in an "arrestable situation" shall we say. But it was great hearing so many Americans with the message "President Bush doesn’t speak for me." Recent polls show that more than half the country disapproves of the way he is [or isn’t] dealing with climate change.

Almost all of the protestors were arrested – they’re currently in jail, and we’re waiting to hear how long they’ll be and what will happen to them. I’m so proud of my colleagues who turned up this morning saying "ok I’m prepared to get arrested for this – this is the most important issue I’ll ever work on."

Meanwhile other colleagues Steph and John arrived back out from the meeting – they’d sat through speeches from Condoleezza Rice and Bush’s environmental advisor John Connaughton. Both of them were talking about the "need to act" and "work together." Translation: "we need to LOOK as though we’re acting so that Bush doesn’t get a hard time on climate change before next year’s elections" and work to point the finger at China instead of doing anything at home.

Bush speaks tomorrow – but we know he won’t be taking any action on climate. My message to him: Kyoto: just DO IT!

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