By Austin Andersen
It sounded like a Boeing 747 careening over the midtown Manhattan skyline, and the only thought that went through my head was why the terrorists would target a bunch of hippy activists. I was nervous, I was uncertain, I wasn’t fond of becoming a martyr before noon (the drive down from Schenectady had taken too long.) The piercing scream rolled and grew in amplification as I noticed the activists around myself getting antsy. Then, a collective whisper turned into a shout as individuals around me started to pipe up, “It’s the climate alarm!! It’s the climate alarm!!”
And with that conveyance of clarification, my group joined the uproar of shouts, whistles and vuvuzelas signaling to the world that we, the people, demand action on climate change.
What is undeniably the greatest city on God’s great green Earth, the metropolis of Manhattan, hosted 310,000 idealistic, peaceful and, above all else, blissful marchers who joined together this beautiful late-September morning. Their task? To collectively have their voices heard on the topic of climate action.
Whether your cause was hydro-fracking, mountain top removal, anti-nuclear proliferation or veganism, your niche was there. There was a rainbow of colors from dress style to skin type. It was diverse, it was empowering. It was beautiful. The holistic slew of socio-economic disparity and geographic difference gave this particular march the feeling of a United Nations summit.
Well, actually, that’s exactly why this collection of smiling protestors had gathered this fine day.First, however, I must make a proud statement regarding the historical context of this protest; it is one in which I don’t even think many of the protestors have yet realized. The People’s Climate March was not just another misfit hippy protest; this thing was big … really goddamn big. Initial estimates, as I currently write, stand between 310,000 and 400,000 participants.
For a casual means of comparison, I will point to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famed March on Washington where the doctor delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream Speech.” The March on Washington only mustered between 200,000 and 300,000 participants. One cannot ignore the comparison of scale and effect.
After parking our car at Fordham University, the four Union students I drove down with got on a downtown B train to the 59th Street stop where we found ourselves in the thick of things. As we arrived on Central Park West and met up with the 40 or so other Union students, we found ourselves in the student climate coalition block, made up of 50,000 high-school and college students from all over the United States. I saw shirts and banners representing students from UC Berkeley to University of Vermont. As I made my way through the crowd, I could not help but being awestruck by the diversity and passion of those present.
There were Muslim and Christian groups touting mosque and ark floats, respectively; packs of school children on “field trips” being led by bewildered yet blessed teachers; bare-chested women and granny choir groups (thankfully not one and the same); inner-city environmental justice groups; and Franciscan monks, if only to partially unveil the disparate demographic present this historic day. The incredible diversity present this past Sunday is something new to the environmental movement.
In the past, environmentalists have been stereotyped as white, well-off males, that of which I myself am guilty.
Yet, as we saw Sunday, this is far from the truth; what many people throughout the world do not yet realize is that if you like drinking clean water and breathing clear air, then, by process of elimination, you must be an environmentalist.
You are personally invested in the well-being of not only yourself, but your friends, your family, your dog, as well as Leo DiCaprio and James Franco (who were also present at the PCM).
Sunday saw a collective of the world’s most caring and colorful citizens who were not just asking for action on climate, but demanding it.
The People’s Climate March was a natural sightseeing spectacle through midtown, from Columbus Circle through Times Square and finishing up on the Far West Side, the People’s Climate March moved as one living, breathing activist organism.
We were protesting a flawed system, one that has resulted in a broken climate and a pissed-off populace.
Veni, vidi, vici. We came, we saw and we most definitely conquered.