This last Saturday I went to D.C. to attend an anti-fracking rally on the west lawn of the capitol. It felt…unorganized. We arrived as the interfaith introduction concluded and joined the crowd to hear the activists speak. Unfortunately, not one had anything powerful to say. I don’t think I felt like I was part of a movement until we began our march through the streets.
There were some big names, to be sure. Josh Fox, director of Gasland, and Bill McKibben, leader of 350.org and author of many environmental books. Both made appearances and both spoke passionately to the crowd, but I wasn’t sold. In fact, I can’t say that I recall anything specific from the speeches. Some activists talked about rallying citizens, others spoke of democracy, and a few shared their personal battles with fracking.
Through it all I had the nagging feeling that the movement needed a leader. It needed someone with ultimate dedication. Someone with a face of glory and a willpower of iron. Someone whose words could ignite fire and shed tears with the same words. As we stood with the Washington Monument towering behind us it was only natural to think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose legacy was carved on the other end of the mall.
Always the argumentative one, Sean was quick to question how many movements really have a strong leader and figurehead. I don’t blame him. But still, environmentalism needs a leader. All across the country people are concerned but too busy, too uninformed, and too spread out to push for more. McKibben and Fox are fantastic, but they’re not the kind of people who sway these crowds and turn disbelievers into enthusiasts. Behind every great leader is great support, but without a figurehead to unite the movements environmentalism seems doomed to its crawling pace.