It is hard to avoid hyperbole when you talk about global warming. It is, after all, the biggest thing humans have ever done, and by a very large margin. In the past year, we’ve decimated the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest living structure on Earth. In the drought-stricken territories around the Sahara, we’ve helped kick off what The New York Times called “one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II.” We’ve melted ice at the poles at a record pace, because our emissions trap extra heat from the sun that’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions a day. Which is why, just maybe, you should come to Washington, DC, on April 29 for a series of big climate protests that will mark the 100th day of Trumptime. Maybe the biggest thing ever is worth a day.
Here’s the truth about these protests: People started planning them more than a year ago, when the pollsters confidently predicted that Hillary Clinton would occupy the White House. Trump still seemed an outlier. Men like Scott Pruitt and Rex Tillerson were still safely back in Oklahoma and Texas instead of heading the Environmental Protection Agency and the State Department. The Bureau of Land Management hadn’t yet changed its home-page picture from a photo of a family camping to an 80-foot seam of coal. No one was talking about shutting down our climate satellites.
And yet we still knew we would need to march. Because global warming isn’t really Trump’s fault. Yes, he’s a uniquely disgusting person, and yes, he was elected at the worst possible moment, just as humanity was starting to build a tiny bit of momentum in the fight against climate change. And yes, he’s mounting an all-out defense of the archaic fossil-fuel industry. There’s no question he’s the enemy right now.
But the carbon that melted the ice caps? That’s from the Eisenhower years and the Carter administration and the Reagan era—not to mention the Deng Xiaoping regime and the Brezhnev Politburo. The Great Barrier Reef would have died in a Bernie Sanders administration. Barack Obama was president during the three hottest years in history, and during his administration, the United States passed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the largest producer of hydrocarbons on earth. So these marches and protests—though fully a part of the emerging resistance—aren’t just about Trump.
They’re also about the machine that has been driving the planet in a dangerous direction for decades, a machine that spans parties, ideologies, and continents. And they’re about the hope for what could come next, a vision that’s emerging piece by piece around the world. This week of rallying is the logical extension of the climate-justice movement that emerged in the last decade, led by frontline communities and climate scientists, by indigenous people and farmers and ranchers. All the battles currently under way will be on full display as we march: against the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines and now a dozen others; against fracking wells and mountaintop-removal coal mines; for solar panels, solar panels, and more solar panels. (Not to mention bikes, buses, and electric cars.) This march embraces, finally, large segments of the labor movement. Workers and citizens dying in the heat and floods will march next to scientists pale from too many hours in front of the computer. It is a march for the future.