Detroit, Washington and Montreal

“Rise Up, Keep the Sprit Alive,
Come Together, Got to Organize,
Rise Up, It Won’t Be Long,
Come Together, Keep our Movement Strong!”
-song by Alli Starr

“Wow, this sure is a new experience,” I said to myself last Saturday as the Detroit public bus crawled along suburban Woodward Avenue, one of thousands of vehicles part of the Woodward Dream Cruise, either moving up and down the avenue or parked on the side of it next to some of the tens of thousands of car enthusiasts who participate in this annual event.

In the words of the Detroit Metropolitan Airport News, it was “the world’s largest one-day celebration of car culture that attracts over 1.7 million visitors, and more than 40,000 muscle cars, street rods, custom, collector and special interest vehicles. This mid-summer classic celebrates the heydays of the ’50s and ’60s when Woodward Avenue was the heart and soul of cruising in the city that put America on wheels.”

I was there to support the Road to Detroit, a project conceived and launched in January by students attending a conference at Middlebury College in Vermont. In early June eight young people, recruited and supported by Energy Action, came together in Tennessee. Following a three-day training, they got on a 14 year old, rickety-looking, bio-diesel bus that ran on vegetable oil for what ended up as a 13,000 mile trip through 26 states. Along the way they collected close to 15,000 signatures on clean car pledges calling upon Detroit automakers to build union-made cars that get at least 40 miles per gallon. They interacted with or were seen by hundreds of thousands of others, perhaps many more.

For two and a half months they traveled to red states and blue states, literally scrounging for vegetable oil from restaurants along the way, reaching out to Bush voters, liberals, non-political folks and anyone who would listen. They traveled through the hot plains of summer and over the Rocky Mountains, breaking down several times. And as a finale, they cruised up and down Woodward Avenue with a big sign on the side of the bus, “Cruisin’ Ain’t Easy at $3.00/Gallon. Oil is Over. Drive the Future,” and, to their surprise, got a positive response from the many car-lovers out for a good time with other car-lovers.

A summer to be remembered by the participants, for sure, but also an experience to learn from and draw inspiration from for the rest of us.

The young people of Road to Detroit understood the urgency of the global warming crisis, and they were determined to take action to do something about it. They were creative and determined. They took risks, day after day.

Kind-of like Cindy Sheehan and the war.

Four weeks from now some of the Road to Detroit and Energy Action organizers and their supporters will be in Washington, D.C. with Cindy Sheehan and her supporters as part of a massive sea of humanity demanding an end to the war for oil in Iraq.

I hope that the vast majority of those in D.C. and in the other peace demonstrations around the country understand the links between the struggle to end the war and the struggle to stop global warming.

A growing percentage of the U.S. American people are seeing those connections. Several years ago, when I was campaigning on the Green Party line for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey, I constantly talked about the need to move to solar, wind and other clean energy alternatives so that we were not dependent upon Middle East oil. This would lessen the threat of Al Qaeda terrorism, I said, as we disentangled from our support of repressive governments in the region and ended our warlike actions. I found much affirmative support and very few people during those months of campaigning who disagreed with me.

Polls and any number of other indicators show that our people understand the importance of addressing global warming and moving rapidly to clean energy. 172 mayors are working to meet Kyoto Protocol clean energy goals for their towns, and a growing number of states are moving in a similar direction.

But global warming is a worldwide problem which will only be solved by the nations of the world working together to go beyond those seriously limited goals. Three months from now those nations who have signed the Kyoto Protocol will be convening at a major United Nations conference on climate change in Montreal, Canada to discuss, in part, how to strengthen worldwide action on this fundamental and urgent survival issue. The U.S. will also be there, working behind the scenes to block any positive action. This is the role they have played for several years.

Scores of organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada are mobilizing to be present in Montreal and to take action to stop global warming on December 3rd, an international day of action. A broad coalition, Climate Crisis: USA Join the World!, has been developing in the United States and is working to encourage and organize local actions on that first Saturday in December in many different cities and towns.

The peace movement should latch onto this campaign with both hands. As the young people of the Road to Detroit demonstrated, the fields are ripe for us to reach out widely and broadly to impact public consciousness on the need to go another way with our energy policy. We know what the polls are saying about the 60% majority that wants to move toward withdrawal from Iraq. We have a tremendous opportunity, and a tremendous responsibility, to get out there building a movement which makes the obvious connections between these issues.

Let’s build upon the momentum of summer ’05 and keep it going to Washington, Montreal and beyond. The Bushites are on the defensive, floundering around, facing possible legal indictments soon. Let’s keep them in that place and advance our agenda for justice, peace and a critically-needed clean energy/sustainability revolution.