People's Climate March

I have been a huge animal-lover for as long as I can remember. In the early 1980’s I earned a Masters degree in Zoology, thinking I’d become a wildlife conservation scientist, but that never happened. Since those plans didn’t pan out, I instead became a volunteer environmental activist and educator about 30 years ago. Squeezing my volunteer work around earning a living and building a family, my activities have included chairing the Endangered Species Committee of the NYC Sierra Club, volunteering as a docent at the Bronx Zoo, and co-chairing the Gotham Green group of Gotham City Networking. In August 2013, I traveled to Chicago to train with Al Gore and his Climate Reality Project to become a Climate Leader, and have since been giving presentations to local groups and writing letters to the editor about climate change.

It’s important to know my history to understand the profound impact the People’s Climate March (the march) has had on me. When I first heard about it in spring 2014, I put it on my calendar to attend an organizing meeting in Manhattan on July 1. When I got there, I was immediately moved and inspired to see the vast number and the diversity of the people there. There was a list of subgroups (called hubs) into which we were to divide ourselves and, as a Unitarian Universalist (UU), I decided to join the Faith Hub.

From that day forward I worked intensively with my congregation on Long Island, mostly focusing on spreading the word locally to encourage other UU’s to join the march. I attended an interfaith meeting in Manhattan in late July, which attracted a large number of people from a wide range of denominations. I even gave a climate presentation at my congregation to encourage others to march. It was all so inspiring and motivating!

The day of the march was like no other day in my life. The organizers from 350.org, Avaaz and other groups had assigned different hubs to line up on different blocks. The Faith Hub was expected to be particularly large, so we were assigned to line up on West 58 Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan. As predicted, about 10,000 people showed up to march just in the Faith Hub alone. Tears came to my eyes as I saw the small flags being held up by each denomination so people could congregate where they wanted to. The hub was so inclusive that atheists, agnostics, pagans, and others you may not ordinarily see at an interfaith event had their own little signs and places to gather. Unitarian Universalism is a relatively small religion with only about 160,000 members in the U.S., but we were very well represented with about 1,500 UU’s from across the nation joining the march (almost 1% of our national membership!).

 

 

On September 21, 2014, 400,000 people came from throughout the country to meet in New York City and march to demonstrate their conviction that we must act decisively to mitigate the effects of climate change. The staging area for the march was on Central Park West, which is where the photos shown here were taken. The march continued from Columbus Circle across to 6th Avenue down to 42nd Street, west to 11th Avenue, down to 34th Street.
 
Gail Koelln wrote this for Ear to the Earth. Joel Chadabe took the photos and recorded the sounds.

  

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A street interview

There was a very positive feeling in the air and, although we were too far back to be able to hear the people speaking, an inspirational interfaith service that I later saw segments of via video was held as we waited for our turn to join the march (for what turned out to be 2 ½ hours from when we arrived at noon). There was also energizing music (that we COULD hear) and I was in heaven! As we marched, the creativity of the participants was amazing, including (but not limited to) elaborate floats with important messages; musicians playing; people singing; meditators meditating in Central Park; and numerous funny, ironic and moving signs and banners. At one point I saw a small group of people pushing what looked like a rock on wheels. I asked what it was and was told it represented the Earth, which they thought should be a part of the march too!

 

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A few sounds of the march

To see so many people GETTING IT and joining in the work I’ve been doing for so long was heartening and I finished the march with a great feeling of hope. I know there is still much to do and a long way to go. We are already organizing again amongst ourselves and with 350.org and others to take stock of where we are and to come up with next steps. I can’t wait to get back into action and work with all the terrific people, both friends and former strangers, that I worked with to organize the march. I know we’ve reached a tipping point and it is now only a matter of time (hopefully not too much time) before this becomes a truly national movement that will change everything… for the better!

— October 2014