On Sept. 19, 2014, Amtrak passengers riding a People's Climate Train assemble for a group photo at a train stop in Buffalo, NY, on the way to New York City for a weekend of workshops, meetings, lectures by climate activist leaders and the Sunday, Sept. 21, People's Climate March. Some stayed in New York on Monday, Sept. 22, for a Flood Wall Street march as well. Pictured with the group are Houghton residents Allan Baker, Keweenaw Now videographer, and his wife, Shirley Galbraith, Keweenaw Now guest author (second row, seated right).* (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu for Keweenaw Now)
HANCOCK -- The Amtrak train for New York City, dubbed the "People's Climate Train" by passengers who boarded it in San Francisco, picked up more passengers bound for the Sept. 21 People's Climate March along the way. Amtrak arranged for the group to be seated together in two cars, which facilitated a day of presentations, workshops and discussions on various climate change issues -- and networking among both young and old. A spirit of camaraderie and solidarity prevailed.
Susan Riederer, co-chair of the Boulder, Colo., Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) chapter, was one of the organizers of talks and discussions on the People's Climate Train.
Keweenaw Now staff boarded the train in Chicago at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18. Friday was a long day, especially since a health emergency on the train caused a delay of several hours; yet the nearly 24-hour ride from Chicago to New York City was nothing to those people we met who had been riding the train since California and other points west.
One of these, Diana Cabcabin of San Francisco, gave a presentation about Typhoon Haiyan, which had affected her family directly since it struck their town in the Philippines:
Cabcabin is a member of Women for Genuine Security, a group that advocates for justice and educates the public about historical inequities. She questioned the value of trade agreements in the Asia Pacific region that favor large corporations rather than people in poor communities vulnerable to impacts of climate change.
A California journalist and author, Christopher Cook, spoke about the relationship between climate change and industrial agriculture with large-scale food production:
Cook, who is the author of Diet for a Dead Planet, also published an article on riding the train from San Francisco. He actually filed the article when the train stopped in Chicago, and it was posted on Sept. 19.**
Activist James Blakely of Boise, Idaho, said he also boarded the train in San Francisco. He spoke about his recent experience in Alberta, Canada -- participating in the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk with First Nations people who are most immediately impacted by this industry:
Blakely pointed out that the boreal forests, once rich in biodiversity, are destroyed to enable the industry to mine the tar sands. The process puts so many toxins into the environment that the First Nations people can no longer hunt and fish as they used to do for subsistence.
"The only real jobs up there are for the oil companies, so they're now almost forced to work for the oil companies or leave their land," he said.
According to Lemmon McMillan of Evanston, Ill., talking about climate issues must include the intersectionality of poverty, racism and gender inequality. These social justice issues, along with government corruption and U.S. foreign policy, are all connected, he says.
Lemmon McMillan of Evanston, Ill., joins in the discussion of climate change and insists it must be discussed in connection with social justice issues, especially poverty and racism. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)
McMillan, whose own heritage includes Native American and African American roots, is working on a series of videos intended to discuss these issues and how they are all related.
McMillan said he spoke with teenagers from an African American community on the south side of Chicago and one asked him why he should be concerned about climate change that might kill him in 20 or 30 years when he's facing situations (police or gang members) that could kill him now.
"The climate movement needs to answer that question," McMillan said. "We all have to support each other and understand that all our issues are related."
Two other Illinois residents -- Jill Paulus of Wheaton, Ill., and Joyce Good of Chicago -- spoke about an environmental issue that is now impacting people of many different socio-economic groups -- fracking:
Paulus and Good spoke about citizens' grassroots efforts to learn about legislative "rules" for fracking and the importance of participation in public hearings on the issue.
The climate movement, led by 350.org and other groups, more recently has been encouraging students on college campuses to influence their colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. This divestment takes as a model the divestment from South Africa which helped to end the unjust apartheid system.
On the People's Climate Train, Becky Romatoski, a graduate student at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), spoke optimistically about increasing numbers of colleges, students and faculty now beginning to divest from companies that produce fossil fuels:
"The biggest issue is not hurting these people (fossil fuel companies) financially, but hurting them on a moral level," Romatoski said.
Romatoski is a member of the student group Fossil Free MIT. After the Sept. 21 People's Climate March, she wrote to Keweenaw Now saying the march was a great way to recruit more MIT students for that group, which is active in raising awareness of climate change on campus.****
"Our group right now has succeeded in getting MIT to have a committee on climate change which will propose actions for MIT, and our group has secured divestment as one key aspect the committee will consider," Romatoski writes.
As for the People's Climate Train, she notes it was a great and unique experience.
"I will never forget it and the empowerment and excitement from the experience!" Romatoski adds.
Amanda Gabryszak boarded the train in Salt Lake City and, once she realized it was a People's Climate Train, joined in the discussions and workshops, played her guitar in the lounge and regretted that she had to get off in Buffalo, NY, and was unable to attend the Climate March.
Amanda Gabryszak took this photo on the People's Climate Train and wrote a blog article on her experience, noting she even led a workshop on conservation biology. Keweenaw Now's videographer, Allan Baker, is pictured here in the aisle. While people often had to stand in the aisle to hear the speakers, they were very considerate about making room for other passengers passing through the cars. (Photo © and courtesy Amanda Gabryszak. Reprinted with permission.)*****
Susan Riederer, co-chair of the Boulder, Colo., chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, also commented about the positive experience of the People's Climate Train, the Climate March and the Flood Wall Street action, in which she also participated.
"I am still on a high from our time together (on the train), the march and then my time with the Flood Wall Street direct action," she wrote in an email to Keweenaw Now last week.
Here Riederer speaks about the Citizens' Climate Lobby:
Another speaker who rode the train from San Francisco -- Pete Gang, an architect from Petaluma, Calif. -- explained the connection between green building and climate change:
Illinois resident Hillary Colby described her experience with civil disobedience in Chicago:
Bobby Wengronowitz, a graduate student at Boston College and one of the organizers of the workshops and talks on the People's Climate Train, shared his views on why "putting your bodies on the street" in the Climate March is a good beginning and why the Flood Wall Street action is even more important:
Finally, as the train approached Penn Station late Friday evening, Jorge Arauz of Ecuador, who now lives in Madison, Wis., told Keweenaw Now why he was heading for the People's Climate March.
Jorge Arauz of Madison, Wis., displays the sign he made to take to the People's Climate March. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)
"It's just painful to live every day seeing what's happened," Arauz said. "It's outrageous to see the inaction of our leaders."
Soon Arauz was leading the group in a song titled "Sing for the Climate":
* This is the second in a series of articles about the People's Climate March and related events Sept. 19-22, 2014, in New York City. Shirley Galbraith is the author of "People's Climate March, Part 1, Letter: Houghton couple travel to New York to march for planet's future," posted on Keweenaw Now Sept. 30, 2014.
** See Christopher Cook's article, "All Aboard the People’s Climate Train," posted Sept. 19, 2014, on Earth Island Journal.
*** Click here to read more about the Tar Sands Healing Walk.
**** Read about Fossil Free MIT on their Web site.
***** Click here to read Amanda Gabryszak's blog entry on the People's Climate Train.
****** Click here to learn about the Citizens' Climate Lobby.