Greg Yost and about a half-dozen of his fellow members of Circle of Mercy UCC in Asheville, N.C., will begin a 100-mile walk for the earth this weekend. The group will be joined by hundreds of other concerned citizens making the trek from Camp David in Sabillasville, Md., to the White House, where they will rally to pressure President Obama to permanently stop the creation of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The trek, titled Walk for Our Grandchildren, is meant to symbolize the need to protect the planet for the people of future generations, Yost said, such as his 14-year-old daughter, Anna, who will join him on the eight-day journey.
"I want to see a planet that is safe for my children and grandchildren to grow up into," Yost said. "We want to put youth front and center to ask Obama to be a leader and to keep his promises."
At the end of each day, the walkers will sleep in tents at designated campgrounds or in people's front yards. Rallies and protests will also take place along the way. On July 20, walkers will join concerned citizens in Myersville, Md., to highlight the dangers of a proposed 16,000-horsepower gas compressor station that would spew toxins into the air just a mile from an elementary school. On July 23, the walkers will rally for climate action in Leesburg, Va., followed by a potluck dinner with members of the community. The walk will culminate on July 27 with a rally in Washington, D.C.'s Lafayette Park that will feature author and environmental activist Bill McKibben as the keynote speaker.
"On any given day we will have 100 walkers with us and it will get bigger and bigger as we go along," Yost said. "I and those I'll be walking with intend much more than what our sweaty, sunburned faces will suggest we're capable of. Using the proven power of nonviolence in action, we aim to dismantle those institutions and petty, profit-grubbing kingdoms which entertain such insanity as part of their agenda."
The Walk for Our Grandchildren is an initiative of Summer Heat, a project of 350.org calling for a mass mobilization to take on the fossil fuel industry this summer. During the hottest weeks of the year at the end of July, events throughout the country are calling for people to organize and demand real solutions to combat climate change. 350.org is a global grassroots movement founded by McKibben to solve the climate crisis and push for policies that will put the world on a more sustainable track.
The Keystone XL Pipeline would carry heavy crude oil from Canada's oil sands region to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Obama denied a permit for the project last year, but supporters of the pipeline have continued to fight for its creation. Many environmentalists, including McKibben, say the completion of the pipeline would signal "game over" for the environment.
"More than 80 percent of the current fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if we are going to keep global warming to 2 degrees or less," Yost said. "Past this mark, terrible things happen."