Endion Beach

photo: Dan Branovan… lots more after the jump!

On October 24, more than 200 people from around the Twin Ports made their way by foot and bicycle to Duluth’s waterfront to show support for climate protection.

People began gathering on the harbor side of the DECC at 2:30. A 350 banner was hoisted, and Mary Plaster‘s Green Man and Butterfly puppets started drawing curious passersby. As leafletters passed out bookmarks in Canal Park with tips for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the crowd at the DECC grew, with groups of cyclists arriving by the pair and by the dozens.

Singer-songwriter Rachael Kilgour opened the rally with Pete Seeger’s classic “Well May the World Go,” a reminder that our action or inaction today will be felt by generations to come. Chris LaForge of Great Northern Solar emceed a short rally which featured a welcome from Duluth Mayor Don Ness. Ness touted Duluth’s participation in Cities for Climate Protection – an effort by local governments to reduce GHGs in the face of federal inaction – but said that our efforts up to now shouldn’t be an excuse for complacency. Flo Matamoros and Josie Johnson from the College of St Scholastica spoke about the importance of climate protection to up-and-coming generations and their exciting work to put CSS on a more sustainable path. Writer and former Senate candidate Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer pointed out that the federal government now spends 80 times more on its military than on all environmental protection programs combined. Since climate change is the greatest threat to our country and humanity, he called for that spending to be inverted, and for massive subsidies to transform our transportation and energy infrastructure.

After the speakers, cyclists and walkers took off in opposite directions to spread the 350 message. Walkers followed the puppeteers through Canal Park and the Lakewalk. At the same time, dozens of cyclists led by Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and Sadie Sigford of the Bike Cave Collective took to the streets, riding through downtown along Superior Street and circling Canal Park. Many riders wore costumes, and there were plenty of tandem and tall bikes, bringing out smiles and waves from skywalks, shop windows and people on the street.

Both routes converged on Endion Beach – the westernmost point of Lake Superior – for a photo (above) which will be delivered to the UN along with thousands of others from around the world.

After the rally wrapped up, some 50 people moved into Amazing Grace Cafe for a climate teach-in, which covered everything from climate science to gardening as climate activism. John Pastor of the UMD biology department spoke about the troubling results of climate change already impacting our region – such as declining moose, loon, and pine populations and drought. He told the college-age audience members that if we don’t act now to reduce GHGs, by the end of their lives northern Minnesota will resemble Nebraska, not the northwoods we all love. Julie O’Leary of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership took the stage to talk about climate policy in Minnesota and Washington; Duluth City Councilor Tony Cuneo spoke about city efforts to support green jobs and bike transit; and Mary Dragich rounded out the panel by talking about the environmental costs of modern food production and the benefits of eating and growing local. Student activists also chimed in about the importance of resisting the Enbridge pipeline, which upon completion will carry oil from the Alberta tar sands to Murphy oil in Superior. The tar sands are one of the world’s dirtiest sources of oil, requiring 1 gallon of oil for every 2 extracted and devastating an area of land the size of England. Teach-in participants also signed postcards to their Senators and signed up for what organizers hope to be a new activist-oriented environmental group in the Twin Ports.

The event was well-covered on local TV news, and enjoyed plenty of advance publicity on the radio and in the Duluth News-Tribune. In addition to the people already mentioned, special thanks to Dylan Kesti, Jan Karon, Loni Coppin, Emily Derke, Michael Latsch, Alex Strachota and Stephanie Dykema (and everyone else at Amazing Grace) for helping make the event a success.

Remember: we have a lot to do between now and Copenhagen… this is only the beginning!