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7 Signs That the Environmental Movement is Alive and Well

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Climate Change Protest to Call on President Obama to Say No to the Keystone XL Pipeline. The demonstration was organized by the Sierra Club and 350.org under the umbrella group Forward on Climate. More than 35,000 people marched from the grounds of the Washington Monument past the White House on a cold and windy February day. Washington DC . Feb. 17, 2013

CREDIT: Flickr/Rick Reinhard

It's only the middle of February, and already 2013 is shaping up to be a heavy year for climate action. All the indicators are there: massive coordinated rallies, high-profile arrests, student demonstrations and youth involvement, and even some poignant statements from heads of state and global financial leaders. Here's a list of exciting shifts in the movement that should spark hope for environmental justice advocates:

1. President Obama set the tone early on during his inaugural address:

"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."

2. The president repeated his message during the State of the Union address, delivering remarks that were significant for their inclusion, if not for their content.  

3. Scott Parkin, senior campaigner for the Rainforest Action Network and core national organizer for the climate justice organization Rising Tide, told Campus Progress that Washington is feeling the pressure from a diverse, dedicated social movement.

“I’m an absolute believer that Washington is the last place change happens,” Parkin said, alluding to government ties with oil, coal and gas corporations. Still, he said, “They’re starting to pay attention.”

4. Washington has seen a rash of climate-related action in the past week, including civil disobedience protests that got leading members of the environmental community hauled away from the White House in handcuffs. Parkin, who cited his own arrest record, said he's encouraged to see so many people taking a stand. 

5. There were 40,000 people on the streets of D.C. for the Forward on Climate rally reported the Huffington Post—40,000 people demanding President Obama reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The Sierra Club, which co-hosted the event with 350.org, called it "the largest climate rally in U.S. history." 

6. Also last week, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) announced that she would co-sponsor a carbon-emissions-tax bill written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Boxer chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and while the bill faces a lot of opposition, she can do some heavy leaning.

7. But the suits in D.C. aren’t the only ones getting the message. Following the inauguration, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, stood up and told the World Economic Forum that climate change is the single largest threat to the global economy.

“Unless we take action on climate change, future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled,” she said.

If comparing the future to a Burger King menu wasn’t enough, a few days later the Washington Post published a column by Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, echoing the same message.

“We need to get serious fast. The world, our home, can’t wait,” Kim wrote. 

Cody Bond is a reporter with Campus Progress.

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