When the People’s Climate March was announced this summer, I had a feeling in my gut: I have to be there: I think this is going to be huge. Aside from the fact that New York City is one of my favorite places and I’ll use any excuse to visit, I just instinctively knew this was something I needed to be at, in person. When I found out my mentor from the Climate Reality Project also wanted to go, it was settled. Let’s do this.
Recently, a huge Google hangout was held for people organizing around the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21st. Naomi Klein was one of the speakers, and I expected it to be your standard environmental groups on the call talking about the organizing they were doing. I was wrong – boy was I wrong!
Reverend Donna Schaper from Judson Memorial Church in NYC spoke about how the phone had been ringing off the hook at her congregation. They had 200 people staying with them, which was all the space they had in the church and were putting out calls to other nearby churches to house individuals arriving for the march.
Varshini Prakash from Divestment UMass Amherst spoke about how they’re leveraging the Divestment movement that was established at university campuses across North America last year and getting as many buses going to the march as they can – not just from American universities in the Northeast, but from Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and beyond. There’s the People’s Climate Train (which sold out and they’re organizing a second train!) that will be leaving from San Francisco on Monday September 15th and going all the way to New York City, arriving at Penn Station a few days before the march.
At this point, I was thinking about everyone going to New York for the march and all the amazing talents, enthusiasm, and commitment they were bringing with them. Then, from the Mayday collective arts space in Brooklyn, Jaime Lopez from the Worker Arts Coalition talked about the Labor Movement’s contributions to the march and I started getting excited.
I grew up in the Labor (or Union) Movement in Australia – my dad was a carpenter, my mum a teacher and on my mum’s side, my grandfather was a senior official in the Railways Union. I spent my childhood attending marches and protests with my parents through the 1990s in Melbourne, Australia as the conservative state government cut school funding and privatized key services.
So when Jaime Lopez started talking about how the Worker Arts Coalition were going to be building a float for the People’s Climate March that says “We Build the Future,” he was speaking my language. The Mayday arts space (at 214 Starr St, Brooklyn for those in NYC) has a full calendar of different groups building different cool things, and the march has sub-groups for anything you could be interested in, didn’t yet know you are interested in, or want to help out with.
The tagline for the march is “To Change Everything, We Need Everyone” and I feel like this is really being put into practice for this event. The organizing doesn’t have the usual “we need to fight against this” feel of environmental protests because every different group is bringing their own skills, ideas and events to march organizing. People are building floats, making films, and writing plays about the future they dream of without fossil fuels. Some groups are holding “preach-ins” others are holding dance parties and the indigenous groups that are travelling to the event will even be holding a sunrise ceremony in Central Park the morning of the march.
We are yet to see how much of this will come through - it could rain on the day and the turnout could be half the size, there may not be enough momentum built off the protest to manifest into greater climate action, or as happened in Australia when we marched against the Iraq war, the government may ignore everyone on the street and do what they've already decided on regardless of public sentiment. But I hope it won't be the case.
I’ll be travelling to New York City next Thursday, at which point I’ll really be eyeball deep in everything that’s happening; helping out and getting my hands covered in paint at the Arts Collective, meeting up with some of the media group and most importantly, getting out onto the streets of New York City on Sunday September 21st to demand that we start to create the fossil fuel reality that we all deserve.
I’m so excited to be going, to be standing in solidarity with so many other groups and being part of the largest mobilization on climate change in history.
To change everything, we need everyone. See you all there.
images via People's Climate March