As Cancun talks begin, Coloradans demand U.S. lead on climate change

What would happen if the United Nations hosted a climate change conference and nobody came? Does an iceberg crumbling into the ocean make a sound if there is no one there to hear it?

Well, there are plenty of people in Cancun, Mexico, for this year’s UN Climate Change Conference, but they don’t include President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi or even former VP Al Gore.

You could say expectations are low.

In Denver at least there are many who do care. Wednesday, a few dozen people representing 14 local grassroots climate and social justice groups met for a rally on the steps of the state capitol. Similar gatherings were held around the country, including one outside the White House.

On the Capitol steps Wednesday evening

The participants gave speeches, admired each other’s signs, sipped hot chocolate, and then marched around the block holding candles.

“We’re calling on President Obama to go to Cancun and show some leadership,” said Micah Parkin, regional organizer for the 1Sky climate and clean energy campaign.

“We want him to keep the commitments he made last year in Copenhagen to reduce carbon at home and to fully fund impoverished nations’ efforts to adapt to climate change. We are here to show solidarity with the people most affected by climate change,” she said, standing on the West Steps of the Capitol.

Reverend Peter Sawtell, of Eco-Justice Ministries, said he viewed climate warming as an issue of human justice. “The ice is melting and people are suffering. This is an issue of global justice.”

Peter Sawtell and Micah Parkin

He said that, for the most part, climate change discussion is being driven by the rich and powerful but that the effects are being felt primarily by the poor and helpless.

As a country, he said, the United States must be held accountable for the promises it has made to lead on this issue.

“We are told to love God and love our neighbors. We love God and our neighbors by acting for justice,” he said.

He said Americans can start by curbing their appetites for carbon and for meat. “This is about the future of God’s creation,” he said.

Amy Guinan, an organizer with Clean Energy Action and Protect our Winters, attended the conference in Copenhagen last year. She said she has been struck “by how little our leaders have done on this and by how much individuals and local communities have done.”

“It has to be us,” she said. “We have to push so hard that we make them do it. It is our moral obligation and it is time to get serious,” she said. “We are here to show solidarity with the community voices coming out of Cancun.”

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