Blog Post

A View from Inside the Climate March

Maybe, if enough of us March, and plan, and make smart choices, we’ll have a chance at beating this thing. 

I’m not a frequent social activist. In fact, I haven’t been to a major rally since my college days. But when my teenage daughter gets excited about something I care about, I'm all in! And she was getting excited by the social media buzz about the People's Climate March. So, with some last minute scrambling, I headed down to NYC with family and friends to the big March.

By the time we succumbed to the FOMO (fear of missing out) and started making plans, the buses from our region were sold out, so we drove from Brattleboro to Manhattan. Driving to a climate march?? At least we had a full car (5 people), getting 40 mpg—so our 200 passenger-miles-per-gallon wasn’t that much worse than a full coach bus, at about 275 passenger-mpg.

We have to do this?

As we were getting ready, the main thought I kept having was about how absurd it is that we even have to demonstrate like this. The science is solid. The risk is real (even if predictions can never be 100%), so why does anyone still need convincing?

But then I remember this all-too-convincing analysis from Ezra Klein:

“If you were going to weaponize an issue to take advantage of the weak points in the American political system — to highlight all the blind spots, dysfunctions, and irrationalities — you would create climate change. And then you would stand back and watch the world burn.”

Klein points out that those who are likely to be worst hit by climate change have the least opportunity to prevent it and that we, as a society, are notoriously bad at sacrificing now for benefits far off in the future.

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So we have to march. Maybe, if enough of us March, and plan, and make smart choices, we’ll have a chance at beating this thing.  

Blessed Unrest

The shear number of organizations that came together at this event is astonishing: a physical manifestation of the unorganized movement that Paul Hawken chronicles in his book Blessed Unrest.

On the ground this diversity was both enlivening and challenging. Some of the corporate green-building types I was walking with were not so happy about the strident anti-capitalist chants coming from a group just behind us. And vegan activists were out in force, shaming beef-eaters with specs on how much methane comes from cows. “Do You Have a Steak In It?”

Also impressive was the age range of the marchers. In our little carload we spanned six decades, but that was not unusual among the marchers.

Belly of the Beast

Before we even got to the starting line, part of our contingent was getting worried about catching their bus back home at 5:00, so we joined the cheaters who were ducking out onto the sidewalks to leapfrog ahead, and we got to see some other platoons. Thanks to groups with great props like Bread and Puppet and a bunch of swordfish on bicycles, parts of the March felt more like a parade. “The Revolution Will Not Be Motorized.”

The cultural cacophony got loudest when we entered Times Square, where our tapestry of color and sound--and message of restraint--clashed with the high-tech orgy of consumerism.

We were just approaching Times Square, heading towards the much-anticipated block party on 11th Ave when the organizers sent a text acknowledging how overwhelmed they were: “The march is so big that we're asking people to disperse just before they reach 11th Ave and 42nd St.” It had already been a long day for us, so we ducked into the subway and had a smooth ride back home. It was a great adventure—I just hope it’s a sign that the winds are changing!

*Cecil is Chief Program Officer at Urban Green Council.

Published September 22, 2014 Permalink

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Comments

September 23, 2014 - 4:51 pm

Nadav: thanks so much for the first person narrative from Sunday's march. I love the FOMO expression - we definitely felt it. The event reminded me of the March on Washington I attended so many years ago in DC, September 1969.
By the way, did you see two of my children while you were there among the crowds. I'm sure you couldn't have missed them!