Madison community members and organizers marched down State Street Tuesday evening, Earth Day, to raise awareness of environmental and social justice issues as part of a 10-day Global Climate Convergence.
The march and rally, titled “Protect our Water–Reject the Mines and Pipelines!,” addressed many issues, such as clean water and oil pipelines, facing Wisconsin and the nation. Advocates marched from the Monona Terrace to Library Mall, where several advocates spoke about Wisconsin’s environmental concerns.
Ralliers chanted phrases such as “keep the oil in the soil, keep the coal in the hole,” “people power, not corporate power” and “beat back the frack attack, we’re gonna say no mine, GTAC” to promote their individual and collective goals.
Trudi Jenny, a 350 Madison member, said she thought the main message of the march was to “protect our waters.” She said she opposes climate disruption and pipelines.
“We hope that [people attending the rally] learn to become active in the climate change arena,” Jenny said.
Jenny also said she hopes people will write to their congresspeople about creating legislation to keep the planet healthy, promote a carbon tax and oppose a pipeline coming through Minnesota, and support divestment from fossil fuel industries.
Madison Action for Mining Alternatives member Carol Buelow said frack sand mines need more regulation, and bills altering iron mining regulation need to be repealed.
“I think people need to pay attention to the threats to our environment and do what they can to stop them,” Buelow said. “[Iron and frack sand mining] are very destructive to the environment, and they’re very poorly regulated, if at all. The state is doing a totally inadequate job of protecting the environment.”
Environmental advocate Brandi Browskowski-Durow, a public school teacher and University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education graduate student, said she wants to see more environmental education in schools.
Browskowski-Durow added one of her biggest concerns about the frack sand mining industry is the development of silicosis, which is the accumulation of fine sand in the lungs.
“Right now, [the government is] allowing permits to be more lenient, especially in Wisconsin, and that’s not going to be good for future generations,” Browskowski-Durow said.
Self-described “raging granny” Rebecca Alwin said she thought the rally was a convergence of issues and uniting of progressive groups.
“Raging grannies typically don’t like walking this far, but I’ve got my good walking shoes on,” Alwin said.
Multiple peace marshals walked with the group to help the large group comply with the law and stay safe around traffic.
After the march, several speakers voiced their environmental concerns in a rally.
Federation of United Tribes spokesperson Larry Littlegeorge said he would like to see a complete stop to sand mine construction. He said he got involved when he heard about the potential creation of a 5,000-acre sand mine.
Littlegeorge connected his current concerns to Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act moving all Native Americans west of the Mississippi River.
“Now in 2014, we have another forced removal,” Littlegeorge said. “The Federation of United Tribes is commissioned by the elders and their beliefs to stand up and be accountable for the rights of Mother Earth and for the people who are not in harmony and balance with one another.”
Speakers then led a traditional Native American dance, encouraging people to join hands in a line that eventually converged in the center of Library Mall.
350 Madison spokesperson Beth Esser addressed climate change policy for future generations, specifically her children at the rally.
“Like every parent out there, I want so many wonderful things for their future, but most importantly, I want a healthy, vibrant planet for them to live on,” Esser said. “The time has come to move beyond changing light bulbs.”
Esser also spoke of the fossil fuel divestment program on UW-Madison campus.
“If it is wrong to wreck the planet, surely it is wrong to benefit financially from doing so,” Esser said. “Together, we can put people, planet and peace over profit.”
Finally, Carl Whiting spoke of the No Keystone XL Pledge of Resistance’s opposition to building a pipeline through the Midwest to transport crude oil with civil disobedience.
“It’s high time we all got together, celebrating our collective vision for a healthy planet and flexing our collective muscle,” Whiting said. “All of us here are deeply concerned about the future, and rightly so.”
A rally coordinator said despite the smaller-than-expected turnout, the positive energy of the crowd was encouraging and empowering.
The next event, an economic democracy panel is scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow in Madison Central Library.