This is what democracy looks like

Posted by Lauren Hertel on Tuesday, February 19 2013

Editor's Note: Frank Lowenstein and several other Switzer Fellows joined thousands of environmentalists on and around Washington's National Mall on Sunday for the Forward on Climate Rally, encouraging President Barack Obama to take strong measures against climate change.  What follows are Frank's impressions of the event and an audio file of a voicemail he left for Switzer staff from the rally.

If you also attended the rally, please let us know.  We'd also love to see photos you took of the event and will add them to this post.

Thirty-five thousand Americans marched around the White House in biting winds and cold sunlight on Sunday in the largest demonstration for climate action in history.

Switzer Fellows (from left) Kim Smaczniak, Sarah Uhl and Frank Lowenstein before the rallyFrom Minnesota, Missouri, Vermont, Texas, New York, Washington and likely every other state they came. Collge students arrived from UVM, UMass, UMd, Wellesley Collge, Washington University, Middlebury College and dozens of other schools. There were older Americans, some marching with canes or walkers or even wheelchairs. There were veterans in dress uniforms. There were parents and children, some children marching themselves, others on shoulders or in strollers. There were brass bands and percussion groups and a six foot wide drum on wheels. There were hand-made signs and printed signs. There were banners in English and others in Spanish. It was an outpouring of Americans.

And it was a crowd of geeks.When they raised their fists and chanted before the march at the request of organizers, the crowd seemed perhaps a bit uncomfortable. But during the march in overheard conversations you could hear the passion and the knowledge of the climate issues. One fellow chatted about the improving economics of home solar installations with his companion. A moving discussion group about the right timing for climate legislation marched down Constitution Avenue. One sign read: "Make the price of oil reflect its negative externalities." Another featured maps of the 2 degree C and 4 degree C worlds and asked observers which they would rather live in. Still another proclaimed that its bearer was there to represent Aldo Leopold-- and that the founder of modern land conservation was pissed. The crowd was well-informed.

It was a crowd that reflected America at its best-- diverse, well-educated, civic-minded and passionate. And in the chants and the signs you could feel the desire for engagement, and the passion, and the hope.

One chant was heard up and down the march again and again, and this the marchers shouted with passion in a call and response rhythm. "Tell me what democracy looks like-- This is what democracy looks like."

Hear Frank's live report from the event and see his photos by playing the slideshow below:

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