Penguins danced and the crowd kept a giant inflated balloon of the earth aloft, as Racine rallied for sensible stewardship of our planet's environment this afternoon in Monument Square. The rally was one of perhaps 5,200 similar events taking place in 181 countries, during an international day of climate action.
To the stirring opening fanfare of Richard Strauss' Thus spake Zarathustra (better known as the theme of the "dawn of man" sequence in Stanley Kubrik's movie, 2001, a Space Odyssey), about 150 people, mostly Racine high school students, expressed their support for a new treaty on CO2 emissions they hope will come from the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December.
The rally was marked by participation from most of the city's high schools. Students carried posters ("Go green, or go home," "No more coal" and -- this one carried by a penguin -- "Keep the ice under my feet"), and individual numbers which, when brought together, spelled out 350 -- the number of CO2 particles per million in the atmosphere that scientists consider safe, and the name of the organization behind today's activities, 350.org. The big 3 was made by students at Prairie; the 5 by Walden, the 0 by Horlick. Case High School students provided the earth balloon.
For an hour they gave festive, yet serious attention to this global issue, listening to a variety of speakers. The oldest, by far, was State Rep. Cory Mason, 36, who commended the students for taking on an issue "that sometimes feels so big there's nothing we can do." Mason pointed out that the U.S. "is the world leader in carbon emissions" -- that's not a good thing -- and said state government is working to reduce the state's carbon footprint. "We need more people like you holding us accountable."
Jeanette Morelan of Prairie School, a 14-year-old who won the Miss America's Outstanding Teen pageant this summer, said the students are "members of a national family... that dreams of making the air less polluted." She focused on "the power of one," noting that "one person generates more than 1,000 pounds of trash each year." But she also recalled Edward Everett Hale's statement, "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something," telling the crowd, "now is the time for the next revolution.. .a revolution to save our planet."
Dakota Bowen, a junior at Walden, declared that the proposed climate treaty "is too weak," and talked about Walden students' efforts, including their creation this summer of a rain garden. "Walden is working, but we need others. Politicians and world leaders need to hear our voices and make a change."
Thomas Aviles of Walden said it is crucial "to save the most important thing in our existence -- our planet." Jamie Racine of Milwaukee, the Midwestern youth delegate to the climate conference, also spoke.
Pictures from thousands of today's rallies are being shown on the Jumbotron in New York's Times Square. Aviles took Racine's "official" photo from the fourth floor of the Johnson Building overlooking Monument Square; that's where my picture at the top of this post was taken, too. Here's a short video from Times Square: