People’s Climate March In New York City
Four lakh people raised their voice for climate justice at the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21 and Jennifer Scarlott was among them.
Dear Cub kids,
On September 21, 2014, I spent the day with 4,00,000 people at the People’s Climate March in New York City,
Photo: Robert Van Waarden/Survival Media Agency.
Eight months ago, when climate activists learned that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had called global leaders to New York for a summit to discuss climate change, their reaction was a collective sigh. Global leaders get together each year to act on climate change, but nothing happens. Climate activists have come to call that behaviour “business as usual.”
After the activists sighed, and acknowledged their fear that leaders would miss yet another opportunity to take action to reduce pollution that is causing climate change, they decided they shouldn’t let those leaders meet all by themselves. They decided to throw a party of sorts, but one with a very serious purpose. The activists thought, “if we get enough people in the streets, the leaders might decide to act.”
In New York, a group of organisers began to meet, to plan a ‘People’s Climate March’. In May, the group decided to invite people to come hear their plans. They expected around 40 people to show up. Instead, the room in the labour union building in Manhattan filled with 250 people.
People began to get excited. Many young people, people of colour, and people from poor communities hit hard by Hurricane Sandy began to work hard on the march.
On July 1, another meeting was held. The organisers thought they might get 250 people again. 500 people crammed into the auditorium of a university. I met people from my part of the city, the northwest Bronx. We shook hands and agreed that we were angry that our leaders were conducting “business as usual.”
A few weeks later, neighbours in my corner of the Bronx walked from one neighbourhood to another, linking up people with different backgrounds, skin colours, jobs, and lives, who all have the same hope – that their children will live in a safe, clean, green world.
Our little organisation, and big and small organisations all over New York and all over the country kept working, day after day, to let EVERYONE know about the People’s Climate March, and to let EVERYONE know that, September 21 was going to be a historic day in the struggle to reverse climate change.
On September 21, the sun rose in the sky, and we rose and walked out of our homes and into our streets. We carried beautiful signs and banners and artwork showing our love for our fragile planet, our longing for clean air and water, for healthy food and good jobs, and our demand that leaders act or step aside. The organisers of the march thought, “Perhaps, just maybe, there might be 2,00,000 people at the march.” The biggest crowd to turn out for a climate protest in the U.S. in the past had been 40,000, so 2,00,000 would be a tremendous achievement.
4,00,000 marched – grandmothers and grandfathers, parents, small children, college students. They came by the train-load, the bus-load, streams of people marching and singing and shouting joyfully through the streets of Manhattan, shaking the tall buildings where the corporations plot and plan, where the politicians plot and plan with them, where some of the media still asks, “Is climate change… real?” Countless numbers marched in India and all over the world, in more than 2,800 marches embodying the same hopes and demands, the same determination to continue the struggle long after the march ended.
But… do you want to know the most magical moment of that day? When I came home to my quiet apartment, it was dark. My ears still rang with the shouts of 4,00,000 people. I opened my window and heard a beautiful sound in the darkness… the soft, descending trill of a Screech Owl, in the surrounding silence of the night. A benediction.
Author: Jennifer Scarlott, First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, November 2014.