The numbers -- I think 35,000 was about right -- were inspiring and delighted the organizers, the Sierra Club and 350.org.
Speakers varied in their approach from saying climate activists "have Obama's back, and he has ours" to threatening that if he approves the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, that will be his shameful legacy, overshadowing any good "you have done, or will do" in the words of Van Jones.
Come to find out that while tens of thousands were passing by the White House with their demands, Obama was golfing in Florida with some fossil fuel tycoons. Since his administration has already approved the construction of the southern leg (generating some of the most courageous and creative non-violent resistance I've seen anywhere -- check out my interview with Glen Collins), it seems likely he'll approve the northern leg as well. In this post, Ralph Nader mentioned yet another reason Obama's likely to approve it: that Canada can sue the U.S. under NAFTA regulations if he doesn't.
Most inspiring to me were some of the folks I met during the rally who have made the fight against climate change their life's work. Click on my In These Times story to read about them, including Gavan Uprichard and Dana McGuire, pictured at a coffee shop post-rally with their daughter. You can also check out my two latest Between the Lines posts, featuring a First Nations leader from Canada, Van Jones and Eleanor Fairchild, the 78-year-old Texas landowner who's stared down pipeline owner TransCanada's bulldozers on her property.
With the devastating evidence of the impacts of climate change piling up around us, I thought we might finally get some substantive action, but many in power are still insisting that business go on as usual. They have children and grandchildren too, and I just don't get why pleasing their political donors is more important than saving the Earth as we know it. Many of the changes are already locked in place, but with more emphasis on efficiency and renewables (wind has been surging lately) we could still prevent the worst possible scenarios.
As Bill McKibben said at the rally, all he wanted was to see a climate movement, and now he's seen it. Regardless of what Obama decides on the Keystone XL, I think those at the rally will be ramping up their activism, which is the only path worth following, even if it turns out to be too late.