By Lee Temple
Editors Note: This article first appeared on page 21 in the October, 2014 issue of the Crestone Eagle (Volume 25, Number 10, website: http://www.crestoneeagle.com/)
An estimated 310,000+ participants gathered in Manhattan, New York on Sunday, September 21rst for the largest climate change demonstration in history. They were joined in solidarity by hundreds of thousands of other participants in approximately 2460 gatherings in 159 countries around the world, a show of intention and force that clearly places grassroots activism and concern about the growing global climate crisis front and center in the collective mainstream.
One of the best floats in the march. photo by Lee Temple
Chanting slogans like “Hey, hey, Obama, We don’t want no climate drama!” and carrying signs messaging “look ma, no future” and “Don’t Frack With Us,” and more, demonstrators came from as far away as Rome, Italy to participate. From gays to straights, from Tibetans to Lakotas, from toddlers to elders, from individuals to large organizations, we all showed up to participate.
It all started at 11:30 am on a muggy, hazy New York day, and was organized in several different categories that all assembled on 8th Avenue (the west side of Central Park). Leading the parade down by Columbus Circle (59th street at the southwest corner of the park), were those on the front line of the crisis and in the forefront of change, including those most impacted by climate change: indigenous, environmental and other frontline communities. Next came those oriented toward building a better future, followed by groups with specific solutions, such as renewable energy, water justice, and many environmental groups. Groups holding responsible parties accountable (anti-corporate campaigns, peace and justice movements, etc.), followed by those proving the debate is over (scientists, interfaith religious groups) and a large and vocal contingent of local activists/groups brought up the rear.
Several months of pre-event negotiations with the NYPD resulted in a march that was well-organized, orderly and effective yet monstrously large, even by New York standards. Organizers made sure that everyone realized it was to be non-violent, non-destructive, respectful, honest, transparent, accountable, and weapon, alcohol, and drug-free. PCM security volunteers and NYPD officers lined the well-barricaded route along 8th Ave., east on 59th st., down 6th Ave., west on 42nd st. down 11th Ave to 34th street.
12:58pm brought a moment of complete silence when all hands were in the air for those who have already been impacted. Then a great roar of humanity started in the back and moved like a human wave of power down the several miles to the front, with a roaring that continued for a minute or more. Heady stuff!
(Photo at L) A playful group of cranes and their nest. photo by Lee Temple
The Fall equinox timing for the event was no coincidence, as the U.N. Climate Summit was scheduled to kick off at UNHQ just two days later. Interestingly, the march already had an effect well before it happened. U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon has chosen to recognize rather than ignore the march’s people power, by orienting the tone of UN pre-summit communications toward catalyzing constructive, achievable action, particularly in eight action areas of agriculture, cities, energy, finances, forests, industry, resilience and transportation.
Lots of good signs and slogans brought our attention right to the point.
photo by Lee Temple
I had a chance to visit with friends and long-time environmental activists Bill McKibben, Terry Tempest Williams and Rebecca Solnit during the march. I asked Bill if he was attending the UN events. He shrugged “That’s just a side-show. This is the main event,” and marched on.
For more information, please visit: http://peoplesclimate.org/, and/or http://www.un.org/climatechange/climate-summit-2014/
Lee Temple (center) sharing a lighter moment with Bill McKibben and Orion Magazine’s Madeline Cantwell. photo by Chip Blake
The vibrant sea of humanity gathered for miles along 8th Avenue. photo by Lee Temple