Step It Up 2007: National Day Of Climate Action Raises Enviromental Awareness

Last Saturday, nearly 400 residents from Andover and neighboring towns made their way to the Andover Town Hall to attend “Step It Up 2007,” an event held around the country aimed to apply pressure on Congress to reduce America’s carbon emissions 80% by the year 2050. Over 1,400 rallies took place across every state; from the beaches of Ipswich, Massachusetts to the streets of New York City, people from every corner of the country came out to local rallies hoping to send a powerful message to their state and federal governments. Four people climbed the nearly 14,000-foot Gannet Peak in Wyoming where they held up a banner calling on Congress to reduce carbon emissions. Thousands of people in Washington D.C. gathered in front of the United States Capitol where they arranged themselves on the lawn to spell “80%.” Citizens in New York City dressed in blue shirts and arranged themselves on the coast of Manhattan, predicting where the city’s new shoreline may be should sea levels rise ten feet. Presidential candidate John Edwards could be seen at a rally in Fort Myers, Florida. While each rally varied in size and shape, every one of them shared the same common belief—that our country simply cannot continue gorging itself with fossil fuels. Though there has been an increasing demand for congressional action to reduce our country’s carbon emissions, the idea to have multiple local rallies around the country can largely be attributed to Bill McKibben, a leading environmentalist in the United States. In January, McKibben and a number of college students began planning the grassroots movement, hoping that given the lack of funding, they might be able to garner one hundred rallies. After the enormous turnout, McKibben remarked to the Associated Press, “I’ve spent 20 years being very depressed about climate change, but I’m more hopeful today than I’ve been in a long time.” Though McKibben had kept the Civil Rights Movement in mind when planning out the events on April 14, he decided that local rallies would prove much more effective and acknowledged that there would have been a dark irony in loading up fuel-burning buses and planes to transport thousands of people to Washington D.C. In Andover, local supporters enjoyed live music and speeches from State Senator Sue Tucker, PA Sustainability Coordinator Rebecca Bogdanovitch, and Wesley Hartwell ’07. Students from Andover High School, Doherty Elementary School and the Pike School also attended. Around noon, the entire crowd gathered for a photograph that would be sent to the local press, state legislatures and Congress. Above the crowd flew a banner imprinted with the words, “Congress! Cut Carbon Emissions by 80%.” Though the demand to reduce our country’s emissions to one-fifth of what they are today by the half century might seem ambitious, McKibben has been quick to point out that the cost of renewable energies has plummeted in the last decade. One thing is certain; the events that happened in Andover and around the country certainly made an impression on some folks in Washington. McKibben was granted the opportunity to testify before the US House on Tuesday on the changing opinions of Americans and climate change. “Step It Up 2007” was a record-breaking success, by far the largest environmental movement in United States history. Even so, a lot of voices that should have been heard missed out on an extraordinary day. McKibben and others are planning future movements, and there is no reason why more people shouldn’t get involved and help continue to set new records.