Climate change activists are starting a journey in Los Angeles that will finish in Washington, D.C., and they will be traversing all 3,000 miles on foot. Last Saturday, environmentalists gathered at Court Square Theater to celebrate and raise donations for Jerry Stewart, a Virginian who will participate in the Great March for Climate Change, which commences on Mar. 1. He is one of about 60 people comitted to the entire cross-country journey. There are approximately 140 additonal marchers who will participate for smaller segments of the 246 day expedition.
“The world dies without our recognition,” Stewart said in his address to the half-full theater. “We must do something. If not to fix, at least to remain human.” Stewart marches to reclaim his humanity, as well as decrease personal dependence on fossil fuels, join a community of activists, and see the country in a way that few people do.
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), a regional advocacy grassroots nonprofit active in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., showed three films at the fundraiser. The first, “Sea of Change,” was produced by 2012 JMU graduate Peter Jackson, who grew up in the valley. Jackson introduced his 31- minute documentary, which was made through a 2013 summer fellowship with CCAN.
“The way we get our energy is something we want to focus on for all of Virginia,” said Jackson. “Sea of Change” centered around the Norfolk area, where increased flooding is causing military and resident alarm. CCAN founder and director Mike Tidwell recounts a journalism assignment which took him to coastal Louisiana in 1999. The cajun fishermen he interviewed “foretold Hurricane Katrina,” Tidwell said, based on the sea’s activity. He remarked that fishermen are giving simlar warnings today.
Necessary adaptations for that area include revised evacuation routes and shifting to renewable energy. Dominion Energy supplies two thirds of all Virginia’s electricity, 56 percent of which is produced from coal and natural gas. Renewable energy legislation is continually struck down in Virginia’s general assembly. Dominion claims that they cannot invest in off-shore wind turbines until the technology improves, however, such technology has purportedly been utilized for 20 years in Europe and would create up to 10,000 jobs in this state alone. “When Henry Ford came along, the horse industry didn’t say, ‘you can’t have cars!’” one Hampton Roads resident exclaimed.
CCAN staff member Emily Heffling spoke following the film, explaining that Domion Energy is the organization’s number one target for being the largest contributor to climate change in the Chesapeake area. Dominion “is polluting not only our air, but our state politics,” Heffling said.
Gary Race, from the JMU Gandhi center, gave his interpretation of the Indian visionary’s advice by encouraging individual responsibility. “If you want Dominion Energy to use less coal, one of the little things you can do is use less coal.”
The next film featured the Walk for Our Grandchildren, an eight day march which took place last July from Camp David, Md. to Washington D.C. The walk was organized by a group of grandparents in Asheville, NC, and began with 20 people at Camp David. Other environmentalists joined them along the way, ultimately meeting anti-Keystone-pipeline protestors in the capital for a direct action. 54 activists were arrested. Following the film, EMHS students Grant and Garrett Serrels spoke about the iMatter campaign. The brothers have been members of the youth climate change activist group for three and a half years, and were involved in the Walk for Our Grandchildren, among many other conservation initiatives.
Stewart closed the event by showing a short video explaining the Great March for Climate Change, explaining his committment to the walk, and answering questions. The marchers will average 14 miles per day, camping along their route, which can be followed on climatemarch.org or Facebook. “Let us walk consciously, seeing each other as humans,” Stewart proclaimed. He lambasted politicians like President Obama and Hilary Clinton for their use of rhetoric and gesture, “throwing us cookies but selling us out” to corporations, which drew audience applause. Stewart was presented with over $2,000 raised during the hour and a half function to assist with march expenses.
-Randi B. Hagi, Co-Editor In Chief
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