A scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, the first book for a general audience on climate change, and, most recently, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. He serves on Grist’s board of directors.

Thursday, 2 Aug 2007

LITCHFIELD, N.H.

The climate movement is on the move again.

Eleven months after a march across Vermont inaugurated a new, grassroots protest phase of the movement to slow global warming, two new parades are snaking across the nation’s most significant political battlegrounds, thanks to student leaders who have been organizing for months.

A New Hampshire procession left Nashua Wednesday morning, bound for Concord 50 miles away. In Iowa, students left Ames on Thursday, bound for Des Moines. Both processions will conclude Sunday afternoon at their respective state capitols.

“We’ve been getting such a good reception,” said David Sievers, a student at the College of William and Mary who’s been leading the Iowa campaign. “People can see the impacts already from climate change — they can see the changes, and that makes a big difference.” Sievers said tax laws governing nonprofits prevented the marchers from engaging presidential candidates directly, but that “they all know we’re here, I think. We’ve made a lot of noise.”

In New Hampshire, Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter sent the line of 150 marchers off on the first leg of the march with a call to “shake up New Hampshire, and the nation, and the world.” The walkers stepped into one of the hottest days of the summer, traveling the first day to the nearby town of Litchfield. Jared Duval, director of the Sierra Student Coalition and a New Hampshire native, walked with the group, which has been working to build participation in the march since early summer. “It’s all I could have hoped for,” he said, as he watched the group cool off in the tepid waters of the Merrimack River at day’s end.

The students chanted as they walked, and the tone was more cerebral than angry. “Coal stinks — it’s not as cost-effective as you think” was one favorite. But as the blazing Granite State sun set on the first day’s events, the students were camped at the Nesenkeag organic farm and listening to an emotional Eero Ruuttila describe the increasing trials of farming in an unstable climate, where flooding has become routine and crop pests appear months earlier than usual. “I surf biology — that’s what a farmer does,” said Ruuttila. “I ride the wave of the weather. But I prefer to be on a five-foot wave. Sometimes now they’re like the hundred-foot waves off the North Shore of Oahu and I’m too old for that.”

In Iowa, marchers listened to Carolyn Raffensperger of the Science & Environmental Health Network, as well as a spokesperson for Iowa’s chapter of Interfaith Power and Light, the chief religious organization battling climate change. When that march concludes on Sunday, the main speaker will be NASA scientist James Hansen, the world’s most famous climatologist, who has become increasingly outspoken in his calls for citizen action to slow climate change.