Uncharacteristic Los Angeles rains weren't enough to dampen the spirits of The Great March for Climate Action at the launch of this epic journey. Luckily, there was a break in the rains long enough for a dry and inspiring rally at Wilmington Waterfront Park. Behind the stage, stretched across the horizon, towered an oil refinery and the Port of Los Angeles. More than 1,000 people were in attendance at the launch, and the group departed with the marchers to walk the first 2.5 miles. The power of hundreds marching in the streets brought local residents to their windows and yards in support.
The launch of the march was relocated from the affluent Santa Monica to the Wilmington community in Los Angeles struggling with the negative health effects from the area’s local oil refineries. The SoCal Climate Action Coalition that hosted the rally for The Great March for Climate Action launch requested that the march start in Wilmington following a decision by local refineries to move from refining 25,000 barrels of tar sands a year to 60,000 barrels a day without public comment. Valero withdrew their permit to ship tar sands into Wilmington later that month.
The Great March for Climate Action has marched more than 2,700 miles through flashfloods, blinding dust storms, excessive drought and crop-crushing hail worsened in many cases by increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Climate March began its journey on March 1 in Los Angeles and will end in Washington, DC on Nov. 1. Marchers are walking 3,000 miles, away from family, friends, work and school, to inspire and organize action to address the present and growing threat of climate change on local, national and global levels.
“Walking across the country for climate action has taken many steps—around 7 million,” said spirit marcher, Jeffrey Czerwiec. (A spirit marcher, or spirit walker, is one that has taken every single step in the journey). “Perhaps more impressive than that figure is that with each step along the way we bore witness to both the climate injustices and the local heroes that are taking extraordinary actions for their community and, in the end, the entire planet."
It is difficult to measure the long-term success of this march, but in the short-term the march is connecting activists in and across communities, and injecting new energy and inspiration to keep local fights going.
In Nebraska, the marchers organized an event with Bold Nebraska to shine light on the Keystone XL pipeline and mark the march’s crossing of the pipeline. While marching through Nebraska, a decision was made by the State Emergency Response Commission and the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency to protect oil companies by refusing to disclose which toxic chemicals were being transported via rail through Nebraskan communities.
Again, the marchers collaborated with Bold Nebraska to collect signatures in support of oil train and pipeline transparency that were delivered to Gov. Heineman on July 24 in Lincoln. Marchers carried the petition from town-to-town along the route, informing citizens and collecting signatures to demonstrate the citizens’ desire to know what dangers they face. The march hoped to heighten Nebraska's awareness of oil trains and inspire people to take action to protect their communities—and they did. The information was released to the public weeks later due to the increased pressure.
A similar situation arose in Iowa, when an announcement was made about a proposed Bakken crude oil pipeline that would run through the heart of the state. The pipeline would disturb 17 counties, thousands of landowners and provide an additional threat to Iowa's already compromised water supply. Marchers organized with advocacy groups and held a Bold Iowa Town Hall meeting, which successfully kicked-off public discussions and landowner rights education.
These examples are merely a sampling of the astonishing accomplishments of The Great March for Climate Action and its dedicated supporters. The tens of thousands of interactions and conversations enjoyed along the way are immeasurable, but crucial to the understanding of the effects of climate change. Marchers have been gathering stories from across the country of hardships from anthropogenic climate disruption. On Nov. 1, marchers will portray and represent theses stories in DC.
“It takes a community of hard working climate advocates to move a March of this magnitude across the country,” said Ed Fallon, marcher and founder of the Great March for Climate Action. “For me personally, walking every step of the way is emblematic of the kind of determination and sacrifice needed to move our country forward to grapple with the climate crisis.”
On Nov. 1, the March will meet supporters in downtown Bethesda to march for the last and final day into Washington, DC. At 1 p.m. they will hold a rally at Lafayette Park to highlight stories from the marchers about their experiences along the way. Dinner and a celebration will commence at 6:30 p.m. at St. Steven’s that evening, signifying the end of the eight-month march. Updates are available at www.climatemarch.org/dc for all those who want to join in the triumphant arrival.
It is yet to be determined what will come in the wake of the march. Some marchers plan to return to their homes and fight local issues while others will continue their work as part of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps and 350.org groups. Many will remain in DC to participate in a week of actions organized by a large coalition of environmental organizations, called Beyond Extreme Energy. The goal of Beyond Extreme Energy is to draw attention to the agency’s disregard for the environment and the voices of the people.
The marchers walking one day or more represent 37 different states and range from 3 to 83 years of age with a core group of around 50. Hundreds of other marchers have walked portions of this route to demand action on the climate crisis.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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