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Protesters March on Federal Plaza, Push For Alternative Energy and Climate Justice

About 100 activists gathered at Federal Plaza on Monday to protest carbon trading and promote alternative energy.

Drums pounded and trumpets blared, as signs emblazoned with messages such as “No Coal” and “My Air Is Not For Sale” were passed among protesters who gathered during a chilly morning at Jackson and Adams streets.

Mobilization for Climate Justice, the organizer of the event, describes itself as a “network of organizations joined together to build a North American climate justice movement,” according to its website. The protesters marched about a half mile around the Loop, handing out tickets to businesses they say are responsible for climate change.

Hooshi Daragahi, 73, of the Loop, said, “The military is the greatest pollutant of the earth. Coal is a very dangerous pollutant. [The United States] has to invest in developing green energy [to] finance and help the smaller countries and poorer countries develop their own green energy.”

Protesters rallied against multinational companies they called “climate criminals,” including JP Morgan Chase, Midwest Generation, the Chicago Climate Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade. The Chicago Climate Exchange is the first, and biggest, carbon trading institute in North America.

Photo by Jennice Dominguez
Photo by Jennice Dominguez

Seth Jensen, 31, of Madison, Wis., said he was hopeful that protests like this one would enact global policy change. “Those that have the purse strings…it’s going to take the willingness to make that investment,” he said.

“On a grassroots level it’s going to take all of us. For me that’s salvaging material that otherwise is going to waste like compost to grow food. [This rally] is a vital step,” Jensen said.

Jensen noted that the march marked the 10th anniversary of the anti-globalization rally in Seattle against the World Trade Organization in 1999. The rally was also organized to draw media coverage to the climate summit meeting in Copenhagen this week.

“We’d be living in such a different world if the WTO had become what it was meant to be,” Jensen said.

Jessy Johnson, 19, is a student at Loyola University. She said she felt compelled to come because the world needs “a whole shift of consciousness.”

“People need to start realizing what we do has an effect on the environment,” Johnson said. “Money can’t just fix everything.”

A member of Loyola’s Student Environmental Alliance, Johnson added, “I think good things have been done when people come together.”

Joe Dick, 56, a sports photographer from Wheaton, darted in and out of the crowd, snapping pictures of the signs and the organizers.

“I have two sons coming up and they need a decent world to live in,” Dick said. “Coal is the dirtiest energy we have. We have other options, so why don’t we use them? Wind, geothermal, solar… clean coal? No, I think [clean coal] is an oxymoron.”

Dick, a member of the international environmental group Greenpeace, said he receives no compensation for his photography. He documents organizations like this one because he sympathizes with their efforts.

“I use the pictures just to promote our cause,” he said. “That’s all I need.”

A Chicago Climate Exchange representative refused to comment on the rally when contacted by phone Monday.

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