My Experience at the Women’s March in Birmingham

by | Jan 25, 2017

When we were asked if Gasp would participate in the Women’s March in Birmingham, we enthusiastically agreed. The March stands for principles Gasp absolutely supports. Plus, it would be great to set up a table and spread the word about healthy air and clean energy to the, ahem, few hundred folks expected.

The March was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. When I arrived at Kelly Ingram park at 12:15, people were already congregating and milling around. By 1:30, the park was packed and we were in the weeds with people at our table. The day was joyous and peaceful, and the vast number of bodies created a sense of hope and confidence that we, together, could handle the next four years. However, the anxiousness and unease of the marchers, of what is to come, was palatable.

What’s next? How do thousands of march participants and those they inspired, do something? How do we prevent the Clean Air Act from becoming obsolete? How do we ensure the free market will prevail when it comes to clean energy development? How do we protect our children’s future from the wraths of a changing climate? We can’t know exactly what to do, but a place to start, is to become an engaged citizen. Participate. Resist allowing powerful, corporate entities to be the loudest voice and accumulate their victories.

Below is an easy list of next steps to become engaged on issues related to healthy air and clean energy. Expect to be asked to do more. As we have already seen, irresponsible decisions are being made that will impact our planet — your family’s air, water and future. While we brace ourselves, consider starting here:

1. Sign Up

Get on the Gasp mailing list to receive news about air pollution, climate change, renewable energy, and other issues that affect our health and our environment. Already on our list? Share with a friend who might be interested in healthy air and clean energy issues.

2. Become a Member

Join the more than 300 members of Gasp by making a donation at any level. I am a personal fan of giving recurring, monthly donations, since they allow you to give larger, annual donations at small amounts over time.

3. Call & Write Elected Officials

Sign our petitions; write letters to Congress in support of (or in opposition to) specific policy proposals; make phone calls to demand action. Pro-tip: Save your Senators and Representative in your phone’s contacts.

4. Volunteer

Sign up to help with events, become a citizen scientist, give a presentation (or invite us to give a presentation at your church, civic group. etc) assist with community outreach, and more.

Thanks to all the organizers of the Alabama Women’s March for pulling off a well attended, energizing event. It was an honor to be involved. And thanks to our wonderful volunteers, Adriane and Keskia, for helping us out!

Below are the remarks I made at the Alabama Women’s March in Birmingham reflecting on the unity principle of environmental justice:

Margaret Mead said, Never doubt that a small group of highly committed individuals can change the world, indeed they are the only ones who ever have.

Everybody deserves clean healthy air, regardless of their ZIP code. Unfortunately, in our country and here in Alabama, where you live can determine how healthy your air is to breathe.

Where you live can determine whether or not your child needs an inhaler to get through their day.

We want the best available technologies to be deployed to dramatically reduce toxic emissions

We want the Clean Air Act, that is responsible for the dramatic improvement to our air quality over the years to remain intact — to be improved based on scientific research — not dismantled by those who wield their power and money freely

We want agencies to consider whether or not a polluting facility is disproportionately impacting low income and/or minority communities before they give that facility a permit to pollute.

Water is Life.

Alabama is home to some of the most biologically diverse rivers in the world, yet a few politically powerful entities have a tight grip of control — over how our water is managed. The water in the state belongs to all of us.

In Alabama, we have no plan for managing this precious resource.

We want to be fully prepared for the next extreme drought — which we know will be coming…

The rivers and waters of Alabama should be managed responsibly, to be protected from toxic waste, from irresponsible actors who use our rivers and streams as a dumping ground

We want all the fish in our waters to be healthy and edible for everyone, including pregnant women, children, and sustenance fisherman. We don’t want our fish loaded with dangerous toxins.

We want the health of our water and air to take priority over powerful polluting entities financial interests.

We stand behind the thousands of climatologists around the world who tell us the climate is changing. We believe what science is showing us: our planet’s climate is changing, and the most vulnerable among us will again be disproportionately impacted. The time to act is now.

The Clean Power Plan needs to remain intact to reduce harmful carbon emissions.
We want to harness the energy of the sun to combat climate change. In Alabama, powerful interests are trying to hold this industry back, instead of letting the free market prevail.

We want those in power to to make decisions based on the creed, “We did not inherit the earth from our parents and grandparents, we are borrowing it from our children and grandchildren.”

About Kirsten Bryant
Kirsten was with GASP from the very beginning: first as a founding board member, then as our first part-time executive director, and finally as deputy director. Kirsten hopes future generations will inherit a healthy Alabama where clean air and water are valued and protected. She retired from GASP in 2022 after more than a decade of service to the organization.
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