DHARNA NOOR: Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address made no mention of the catastrophic threat of climate change. The following evening, a group led by 350.org gathered in the nation’s capital to offer a rebuttal and demand action on the climate crisis. They called it the Climate State of the Union.
BERNIE SANDERS: 2017 was the second hottest year on record, behind only 2016, and 17 of the 18 hottest years have occurred since 2001. Yes, Mr. Trump, climate change is real.
DHARNA NOOR: They celebrated their wins from Portland, Oregon.
A. VOSS-ANDREAE: We stopped a large fossil fuel export terminal from being built. We got our city to divest from fossil fuels. We removed climate change denial from our public school textbooks. We got our city to pass the nation’s most comprehensive ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure.
DHARNA NOOR: To the University of Massachusetts.
VARSHINI PRAKASH: Since June 2016, my university divested from fossil fuels after a two-week long epic escalation.
DHARNA NOOR: And across the country.
J. PATTERSON: The resistance is rising. Communities are reclaiming our rights. Sanctuary churches, cities and campuses are springing up all over the country.
DHARNA NOOR: They also assessed the challenges ahead.
J. PATTERSON: We know that 76,000 coal miners have died of black lung disease since 1968. We are the people paying the price for this nation’s addiction to fossil fuels. We know families in Houston, Texas and San Juan, Puerto Rico and Immokalee, Florida who are still displaced after Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma — storms likely strengthened by fossil fuel climate change. We know women like Denine, who still has nightmares after being sexually assaulted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
T. RODRIGUEZ BESOSA: If we rebuild in harmony with our island’s ecosystems, we have everything we need to feed ourselves, generate our own power, and take care of each other.
DHARNA NOOR: Not only in fighting climate change.
BERNIE SANDERS: But it is absolutely imperative, and a life-and-death issue, that we have got to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy.
DHARNA NOOR: But also in the fight for social and economic change.
CHERRI FOYTLIN: So look, I’m out here, I’m fighting the pipeline, right? And at the same time, I’m trying to ask people to fight this pipeline while their families are being deported or while they’re not having healthcare. You know, it’s ridiculous. That’s what I’m trying to say. We can’t fight this singly anymore. I mean we have to bring all these issues together and fight for that just transition, and what it is that we want to see.
DHARNA NOOR: Because as many noted, those hurt first and worst by climate change and environmental degradation are often those who are already struggling.
LENNOX YEARWOOD: For those who are watching, who may not know that Erica Garner’s father was killed by the New York Police Department in an illegal choke hold. Many of you saw him. His last words were, “I can’t breathe.” And Erica has sprung up. What’s the connection with climate, though, is even if he hadn’t had been choked, regarding the pollution and his borough had an F for air quality, is that Eric Garner and all his children had asthma. And so even for him, and then when Erica died, she had an asthma attack, which then created an heart attack, which then put her in a coma in which she died at 27, just one month ago.
J. LORENA RANGEL: The undocumented community saw the injustices after the take of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. Like I said, we are the last ones to get any food In our shelters. We were the last ones to get any sort of financial aid. Some are still, have not received that financial aid.
DHARNA NOOR: They called on politicians to come into the communities around them —
CHERRI FOYTLIN: If you’re not out in your community, if you’re an elected official and you’re not out in the community that you’re serving, then you’re not helping your community and you honestly don’t deserve to be there, right?
T. RODRIGUEZ BESOSA: If it’s not renewable, owned by the people and for the people, we don’t want it.
DHARNA NOOR: –and [to] use funds to help the people most affected by climate change, not corporations.
J. LORENA RANGEL: I think it should have, the money that is being brought onto for example, Houston, it should be implemented directly to the families, not to restoration of petrochemical plants.
VARSHINI PRAKASH: You could say that some of our leaders in Washington and around the country have a really bad Koch problem. Now, not that kind of coke problem. That kind of Koch problem.
DHARNA NOOR: But some noted that despite so many people in power refusing to act —
BILL McKIBBEN: There’s not going to be a carbon tax coming from the Trump administration anytime soon, but as Naomi Klein said once upon a time, we can impose a de facto carbon tax with our resistance.
DHARNA NOOR: — the work must go on.
T. RODRIGUEZ BESOSA: Oh I’m just not letting all those government institutions really give me the direction of where my work should go.
DHARNA NOOR: For The Real News, Dharna Noor, Washington.