Saturday's climate change accord, signed in Paris by more than 190 countries, is being widely hailed as "landmark" and "historic." But for about 150 people who marched through downtown Minneapolis under gray skies Saturday, it's not enough.
The marchers took to the streets in solidarity with others worldwide to mark the end of the talks, which produced a commitment to keep average global temperatures from rising by another degree Celsius from now to 2100.
Members of Saturday's "Red Line March" called for that target to be 1.5 degrees Celsius. But it wasn't their only goal, as members from numerous community groups also called attention to local issues such as indigenous people's rights.
"Let's make sure this is just the beginning," said Julia Nerbonne, director of Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light. "This is a turning point in the world economy, and we need to make sure the people continue to be part of the decisionmaking moving forward."
Carrying signs like a large red banner noting the "red line" that can't be crossed, the group began at People's Plaza at the Hennepin County Government Center, continued down 4th Street and stopped outside Xcel Energy and the U.S. Bancorp Center to protest the lack of community solar gardens for disadvantaged communities and funding oil pipeline projects.
The Red Line march concluded at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where a "People's Congress" had convened for grass-roots organizations to discuss their visions for social justice.
The effort came six months after thousands marched to the State Capital to ask for the cancellation of the proposed Sandpiper oil pipeline. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who was at the earlier march, couldn't make it Saturday, but sent a letter of support. In it, he said marginalized groups bear the brunt of climate change's effects. He cited a July state analysis that said 2,000 Minnesotans die prematurely each year from air pollution.
"This is the greatest social justice issue of our time," Ellison wrote.
Tony Frank, of St. Paul, and Travis Decory, of Minneapolis, opened with a Lakota honor song Frank said acknowledged the debt owed to those who came before.
Frank spoke of the need to look out for the next generations. "This is it," he said. "We all have to be aware that what someone thinks is there today, it could all be gone by tomorrow."
The Rev. Susan Mullin, of Faith United Methodist Church in St. Anthony, shared stories from her recent trip to Paris to be among activists on the ground. She said she spoke with an Ecuadorean woman whose community was hurt by mineral extraction and another from the Maldives who fears her home will one day be swallowed by the ocean.
"We have lost a deep connection with nature and face human extinction," Mullin said. "We need a new story."
Stephen Montemayor • 952-746-3282