Rock Ledge Ranch site to be used for global warming political rally

       A political rally on global warming is scheduled at the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Saturday, Nov. 3.
       Colorado College students, joining a national environmental movement called Step It Up, are organizing the rally, which will include speakers, music, information tables and guided nature hikes from noon to 3 p.m. Three hundred to 500 people could attend, according to lead organizer Lucy Emerson-Bell, a senior biology major at CC, pointing out that she has publicized it widely on campus as well as throughout the city. A press release titles it a “National Global Warming Rally to Demand Political Action.”
       Gene Smith, visitor center supervisor for Colorado Springs Parks, said a few city employees will be involved in the event, which will be on the lawn in front of the ranch's Orchard House. No buildings at the 1880s-style working ranch are planned for use during the rally, although Smith said he would unlock the site's Carriage House if restroom facilities are needed.
       Asked about using a city-owned historic site for a political event, Smith said he sees the issue as scientific, not political. “It's beyond the time of debating whether global warming exists or not,” he said. Thus, because the event promotes the prevention of planetary damage, it meets the “preserve” aspect of the City Parks mission to preserve, restore, maintain and interpret the natural and cultural history of the Pikes Peak region,” he elaborated.
       After its first rally last April, the national Step It group “decided to hold an event Nov. 3 every year and call it national Step It Up day,” Emerson explained. “The idea is that it's one year before the elections, and we encourage the politicians to pay attention.”
       Smith compared the rally with the city's annual environmentally conscious Earth Day events at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center and Garden of the Gods, which generally feature Indian dancing, nature displays and children's activities. As for global warming in particular, he said “people talk about it on all our nature walks. During the drought in particular, we were asked daily if it it was because of global warming.”
       Step It Up had wanted to use Garden of the Gods for its rally, but there was “no room” for 500 people in that city park, Smith noted. So the city offered Rock Ledge (technically within the Garden of the Gods), which would otherwise not be open that day. “The ranch is a convenient location for this to take place,” Smith said. “We provide the site, and they take it from there.”
       Speakers will include City Council member Jan Martin, Sierra Club member John Stansfield, Colorado College professors Jeff Livesay and Howard Drossman and City Parks Cultural Director Matt Mayberry, Emerson said.
       The band will be a group called the Giddyups; there may also be an African drum group.
       Another tentative activity is an American Indian “ground-blessing ceremony,” Emerson said. She said Smith is helping with that.
       Community entities scheduled to have tables include the Sierra Club, Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, Colorado Springs Utilities, the Catamount Institute and the two county nature centers.
       A Garden of the Gods Visitor Center interpreter is to lead the hikes.
       Emerson said Step It Up, which was started by Vermont writer/activist Bill McKibben, calls for 5 million “green jobs” (such as helping create solar energy, Emerson said) by 2015, an 80 percent carbon emission reduction by 2050 and a moratorium on new coal-burning plants.
       Emerson emphasized that she does not want the rally to focus on environmental “doom and gloom.” Calling it a “celebration of the Garden of the Gods,” she said the rally will be preceded by a mass bike ride from Colorado College (campus carpooling is also being provided), and “we encourage families to come. We want it to be an all-ages event.”
       In writings published on the Internet, McKibben's global concerns are evident. An excerpt follows: “The environmental movement is reaching an important point of division, between those who truly get global warming, and those who don't. By get, I don't mean understanding the chemistry of carbon dioxide, or the importance of the Kyoto Protocol, or something like that - pretty much everyone who thinks of themselves as an environmentalist has reached that point. By get, I mean understanding that the question is of transcending urgency, that it represents the one overarching global civilizational challenge that humans have ever faced. That it's as big as the Bomb.”

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