Almost 400,000 people turned out in NYC yesterday for the US edition of the People's Climate March, the largest protest in the history of the issue, joined by more than 2,000 events in 166 countries worldwide.
The streets began to fill up about 10:30am, with the official start scheduled for 11:30am, at 59th Street and Columbus Circle.
By 11 o’clock, Central Park West was jammed with the very old, very young and every color and personal style imaginable, shoulder-to-shoulder, patiently waiting in earmarked groups of choice, such as Front Lines of the Crisis/Forefront of Change; We Build the Future; We Have the Solutions; We Know Who is Responsible; The Debate is Over; and To Change Everything, It Takes Everyone.
By noon, there was no movement towards 59th Street because there was no movement possible anywhere, save a trickle of independent marchers moving slowly along the sidewalk.
Signs were in abundance: “There Is no Planet B,” “Defend Our Mother,” “Older Is Bolder,” and from the scientists’ group, “The Debate Is Over,” chalked on a giant blackboard that traversed the entire march route. “Don’t frack with us!” was among the most visible signs being carried.
People also carried generic signs provided by the organizers titled, “I am marching for…” filled in with individual reasons ranging from “For the bees” and “Mother Earth” to “My grand-kids” and “Moral conscience.”
The march in NYC precedes the United Nations climate summit convening tomorrow, with 120 global leaders including President Obama, expected to participate.
Celebrity activists including Bill McKibben, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall, Mark Ruffalo, Sting and Trudy Styler, Ed Norton and Vandana Shiva marched with policymakers Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Vice President Al Gore.
When the march actually started moving around 1pm, waves of cheers would cascade from close to the beginning, making their way up the street, getting louder and louder until they reached past more than 30 city blocks, echoing off the buildings in grand cacophony.
Environmental activists walked next to labor unions and religious groups and anti-corporate protestors. At the finish line, 34th St. and 11th Avenue, Ruffalo spoke about clean water advocacy group the Waterkeeper Alliance, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. called for a carbon tax and Senator Sanders slammed the Republican Party.
“One of the great embarrassments in America right now is the fact that we have a major political party — it’s called the Republican Party — which has rejected science, rejected what the scientific community all over the world is saying, and that is a very frightening situation.”
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer called the protest “a message to our dysfunctional federal government that we’re not going to be pushed out of our planet.”
Interestingly, national TV was otherwise occupied. NBC’s “Meet the Press” didn’t mention the march, while CNN, Fox and MSNBC were focusing on issues such as the NFL, the fight against ISIL/ISIS, Friday’s White House intruder and the November elections.
But it was a hit on social media, with tweets and likes, erupting throughout the day. The Guardian assembled GuardianWitness, showcasing images generated by some of 570,000 people who took part in the history-making day.
The march was spearheaded by McKibben’s 350.org, the activist group that made the proposed Keystone XL pipeline a national issue, and McKibben is sure the President took note.
“You don’t get to be president of the United States by ignoring huge outpourings of public sentiment,” he said in Politico.
Of equal note, just as 350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets called on government leaders to provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge — as well as develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels — the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and 49 other philanthropic foundations just announced plans to join the divestment movement and remove its $860 million philanthropy portfolio from fossil fuels investments. The RBF’s patriarch, John D. Rockefeller, amassed his fortune by founding the Standard Oil Company. Turns out the RBF has backed 350.org for years and McKibben called them a "great ally" back in 2011.
According to a new report from the Global Carbon Project, worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels, and in the U.S. emissions rose 2.9 percent. While Western countries make efforts to slow emissions, China’s have grown 4.2 percent and India’s 5.1 percent and both countries are building coal-burning power plants as fast as they can.
“You can no longer have some countries go first and others come in later, because there is no more time,” said Glen P. Peters, a scientist at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo. “It needs to be all hands on deck now.”
And so it was in NYC and other protests worldwide. “We said it would take everyone to change everything — and everyone showed up,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.
The people have spoken. Now it’s up to the politicians and big business to take the lead and take action.
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things."