Environmentalists March on the National Mall to Push Obama on Global Warming, Keystone XL Pipeline

Thousands of protestors gather at the National Mall in Washington calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, as well as act to limit carbon pollution from power plants and move beyond coal and natural gas, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (Photo: AP)

Organizers say roughly 35,000 environmentalists gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. today to urge President Obama to take action on global warming.  Many of them particularly want to see the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would bring fossil fuels from Canadian tar sands fuels to the Gulf Coast, rejected.

Before the event, actor and environmentalist Robert Redford reportedly wrote: “This is the beginning. The beginning of a real battle, for America’s future…President Barack Obama’s legacy will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in solving the climate crisis.”

A website urging people to sign up for the “largest climate rally in history” has roughly the same message, adding: “Crippling drought. Devastating wildfires. Superstorm Sandy. Climate has come home – and the American people get it.”

According to the Huffington Post, organizers from 350.org, the Sierra Club and the Hip-Hop Caucus joined together to plan the event, which took place on a windy, 34 degree day.

Environmentalists March on the National Mall to Push Obama on Global Warming, Keystone XL Pipeline

From center to right; Bill McKibben, Fiona McRaith, Leah Qusba and Maayan Cohen join a march from the National Mall to the White House in Washington during a rally on calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, as well as act to limit carbon pollution from power plants and move beyond coal and natural gas, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. (Photo: AP)

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) told the lively group: ““They’ve got the lobbyists. They’ve got the super-PACs. They made the campaign contributions. They’ve got this town in their pockets — they have got the situation under control…And then you show up. And then we show up. And we change the game.”

He spoke about looking down the hallways of history and being able to say “yes we did.”  The crowd, holding up their clenched fists, briefly chanted back, “Yes we did! Yes we did!”

Maura Cowley of the Energy Action Coalition added: “Keystone XL is a dirty and dangerous pipeline. It’s literally going to cut our country in half, carrying a very dangerous fuel, and it will cause runaway climate change…Young people across the country are the same generation that elected Barack Obama twice now, and we really want to see him reject the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Environmentalists March on the National Mall to Push Obama on Global Warming, Keystone XL Pipeline

Native Americans from the Cree Nation of Alberta, Canada, march with other protestors from the National Mall to the White House in Washington calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Photo: AP)

The Hill continues:

Activists at Sunday’s rally said approving the pipeline would taint Obama’s record on climate change. They said they hoped the demonstration would give the president the will to nix Keystone, even when a majority of both the House and the Senate want it built.

His heart is there. The question is can we change the politics enough so he can do what he knows is right. And I believe that he will,” Van Jones, a former Obama adviser, told The Hill.

The politics surrounding the project are formidable.

Blocking Keystone would play into Republican assertions that the president is scuttling a project that could enhance energy security and create thousands of jobs to appease environmental supporters. They have pressed the White House to green-light the pipeline. [Emphasis added]

During the State of the Union last week, President Obama said that if Congress doesn’t take action to curb what he believes is contributing to global warming, he will.

Melinda Pierce, the legislative director for the the Sierra Club, expressed support for the idea even before Obama’s speech.

“Congress is a place where good ideas go to die,” she said. “There is a tremendous amount that his administration can do without Congress. He has the authority. He doesn’t have to wait for Congress.”

Here’s video from Sunday’s rally, via the Sierra Club: