Of Activism and Autumn Aspen

This past week has seen not one but two climate change actions in Denver, both organized by 350.org.  The first was to meet the train filled with people heading on to New York for the People’s Climate March September 21.  We gathered in front of Union Station for speeches and singing, then went around to the back and watched the train come in at the platform.  Several dozen climate activists got off and joined the rally, adding to the enthusiasm. I was able to hand out flyers and talk to some people about veganism.  It was great to see so many others (about 250) who are as concerned as I am about climate change.

Then Sunday, at the same time that the People’s Climate March was going on in NYC, a group gathered in Denver on the west steps of the capitol.  Keith and I were pleasantly surprised to see more vegans there than we expected, several with additional signs, to amplify our presence.  Each group represented there could have someone give a brief speech, so I took a turn standing front and center.  I explained that over half of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock agriculture, and urged the crowd to “make a difference every day with your fork.” The group applauded; overall, I felt more support for the vegan message here than I previously had among environmental activists.  In fact, the lead speaker of the event commented, “You vegans are well organized.”  After the speeches, the group marched in front of the capitol and down the 16th Street Mall downtown, chanting, waving signs and engaging passersby.

Two days later, I was hiking in the high country when the fall color was at its peak at 10,000 ft.  “Fall color” at that altitude means almost entirely aspen, as the other trees are all evergreens.  But the aspens step up and really put on a show, weaving among the dark green evergreens in all imaginable shades of yellow, gold, and orange.  To hike up to a high ridge and be able to look over an entire valley of such color, along with the intense blue of the sky and the purple of distant ranges, is breathtaking; view after view unfolded before me.  I recalled an article I’d read a couple of weeks earlier in the Denver Post about tree cover in the Colorado Rockies.  Entitled “Rocky Mountain Forests Are Dying,” it cited a Union of Concerned Scientists and Rocky Mountain Climate Organization report warning that the tree species that have covered these mountains for centuries are in grave danger as the climate warms. The report projected that only a fraction of our forests will still be here by 2060. Already the forests in some areas have been visibly decimated by bark beetles able to flourish during warmer winters.

As I gazed out at the autumn splendor, I wondered: am I in one of the last generations to be able to see this? and felt a lump rise in my throat.  Am I?  Are we humans just going to let our planet die? I fervently hope that the huge numbers who turned out for the NYC People’s Climate March last Sunday are an indication that the public is becoming increasingly vocal about demanding change.  We can only hope that governments around the world will begin to make a serious response to the leadership of the people.

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