Remarks made at campaign announcement March 1, 2013 6:30 pm
I've been involved with a lot of campaigns over the years. It's time for another. This campaign will be the most difficult. It will be the most expensive. And it will be one of the two longest campaigns I've ever run.
But it will not be a campaign for public office.
This is a campaign to mobilize 1000 people to march coast-to-coast, demanding action on climate change - action from both the American people and from our public officials. The Great March for Climate Action will set-out from the west coast one year from today and arrive in Washington, DC the weekend before the mid-term election. It will be the largest coast-to-coast march in our nation's history.
For a long time, I've recognized that climate change is not simply an issue. Climate change is a crisis, possibly the deadliest crisis humanity has ever faced. And it's not a crisis that might happen somewhere in the future. It is a crisis that is happening now!
For the past six years, I've asked myself what I should do? What's my duty, my responsibility in this crisis? What do I have to offer that can help avert the calamity barreling our way like a coal-fired freight train?
I discuss climate change on my talk show regularly, and I continue to live more and more sustainably in my personal life. But honestly, I don't feel I've come close to doing enough, to doing my part. There are certainly people and organizations who have, like Bill McKibben, James Hansen, the Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Iowa's own State Senator Rob Hogg.
But it is past time for me to step up to the plate in a focused and significant way. Again, this is a CRISIS!
Two weeks ago, the idea of this March came to me, and as I thought about it and talked about it with a few close friends, I realized it was the campaign I needed to commit myself to.
Why a March? Throughout history, marches have been powerful tools to mobilize people - physically, spiritually, and politically. In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi led the 240-mile Salt March to defy Britain's imperial power. In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr led the five-day march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery. And in 1986, the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament left Los Angeles on March 1st, traveling 3700 miles to finish in Washington, DC on November 15th.
I was very involved in the Great Peace March, coordinating logistics for the Iowa segment. It was an incredible experience, changing the hearts and lives of those of us who participated. It also influenced tens of thousands of people who interacted with marchers throughout the nine-month journey. One cannot, of course, say that the Great Peace March single-handedly achieved nuclear disarmament. But it was one campaign in a much bigger campaign involving thousands of committed activists who accomplished so much, including a ban on nuclear testing. The bottom line is, the Great Peace March absolutely helped make our world a safer place.
Building on my experience with that, learning from all the other campaigns I've run, mobilizing the connections and relationships I've developed and nurtured over the years, this Great March for Climate Action is how I can do my part in the collective effort to avert the worst consequences of climate change.
I'm serious when I say this is the most difficult campaign I've ever launched. I also believe it is the most important. And I know there is no way I can pull this off on my own. I will need your support, your encouragement, your contacts and connections from across the country. This is a national campaign, appealing to an international audience, addressing a global crisis. It's an undertaking of massive proportions.
I realize what I am asking 1000 people to do is pretty unreasonable. Put your lives on hold for nine months, maybe even quit your job or drop out of school. March over 3,000 miles across America. Suffer blisters, sore muscles, aching knees. Get drenched by cold spring rains. Feel the sweat stinging your eyes as 95° summer heat bakes the pavement under your feet. Sleep in a tent on the hard ground, with only a thin layer of plastic between you and the howling elements.
You know, that sounds like a hard sell. But I'm willing to march, and, I believe there are 1000 more who are willing to go the extra mile, so to speak, to avert the worst outcomes of climate change for ourselves, for the rest of the world, for future generations, and for our planet.