WASHINGTON (AFP) – Washington played host to another ‘tea party’ rally, but this time the tea was green and the message of the thousands who gathered on the National Mall was about the environment, not anti-government.
“It’s nice to be at a tea party,” British pop icon Sting said Sunday, referring to the vocal conservative and predominantly white activist movement that is vehemently opposed to President Barack Obama’s administration and health care reforms in particular.
“A green tea party, where people know what’s going down, for a change,” Sting added as he took the stage to close out nine hours of music and pleas to save the planet, organized in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
Before Sting, hip-hop artists The Roots, Bob Weir of legendary rock band the Grateful Dead, and John Legend were among the acts who blasted through heavy-bass sets on a temporary stage set up on the Mall, with the Capitol as a backdrop.
When the sets ended, local and international politicians, stars and activists took center stage to plead for the planet.
In a videotaped message, President Barack Obama said Earth Day “has always been about coming together for a cause bigger than ourselves” and urged the thousands gathered under the hot spring sun on the mall to form a united front against climate change.
Former president of Costa Rica Jose Maria Figueres, who is now a member of the global action committee of the Earth Day Network, warned that, when it comes to climate change, “we have to get it right the first time — we can only have a plan A because there is no planet B.”
Avatar director James Cameron teamed up with three actors from his blockbuster movie – CCH Pounder, who played the Na’Vi matriarch; Na’Vi warrior Laz Alonzo, and Giovanni Ribisi, who played earthling Parker Selfridge — to call on what he said were 200,000 people gathered on the Mall “to be warriors for the Earth.”
“You have to leave here today and fight the deniers. You have to fight the people in doubt and make them understand the urgency of climate change legislation,” Cameron said.
“You need to be warriors for the Earth and create change, but your tools will not be physical weapons but words,” said Cameron, whose movie Avatar is about the Na’Vi people’s fight against strip-miners from Earth who want to gut the Na’Vi planet, Pandora, for its precious mineral, unobtainium.
The number of Americans who believe climate change exists and is caused by human activity shrank from 52 percent two years ago to around a third of the population recently, Cameron said, citing a recent poll.
Civil rights icon, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, urged Americans to ditch their cars in favor of mass transportation.
“I applaud President Obama for the start he has made towards more mass transit, more rail lines, more green jobs and weatherization… Mass transit is a major key” in the fight against global warming, Jackson said.
For the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, taking to the stage to promote a cause was alien.
“People have put us on a kind of pedestal and I’ve been reluctant to use that for political or ideological purposes,” he told reporters.
“But this is important enough for me to speak out on. The environment is important and if you have kids, it’s hugely important,” Weir said.
The celebration on the Mall came ahead of what was supposed to be the passage of a compromise energy and climate bill by the Senate.
But those plans were thrown into disarray Sunday when influential Republican, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, abruptly pulled his support for the bill, saying he was outraged over a decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to move an immigration bill in the Senate ahead of it.
“I grew up in South Carolina,” Jesse Jackson told reporters at the Earth Day rally.
“We were the number one toxic waste dump of the US. People sent their toxic waste to South Carolina.
“Clearly, South Carolina should be at the forefront of environmental legislation,” he said.
This video is from CNN’s Newsroom, broadcast April 25, 2010.