The People's Climate March

The People’s Climate March in New York City attracted nearly 400,000 participants.

Sarah Amelia Sackville McLauchlan is a guest blogger for our 80×50 Blog site. Sarah travelled with Toronto350.org to participate in the People’s Climate March in New York City where approximately 400,000 marchers made history with the largest ever demonstration for Climate Action.

From the moment I heard about the People’s Climate March, I knew I wanted to go.  This was going to be an historic moment in the movement for climate action, and I wanted to be part of it.

I also wanted to go so that I could represent my own concerns about the looming climate crisis, and my desire for us to do much more to address that crisis.  As a dis/abled woman (I’m blind) living on a fixed income, I have grave concerns about what climate change (or, as I’ve often heard it called these days, climate destabilization) will do to my future.  And make no mistake, although we talk often about what the future holds for our grandchildren, the crisis is upon us now.

Climate change is already affecting my generation, and I’m in my thirties.  What will our world be like when I reach my mother’s age?  I already have health issues because of increasingly hot and humid summers and volatile winters.  I depend on infrastructure (public transit, sewer systems) as well as health services that are strained by the impacts of global warming. If these are problems now, what is it going to be like if, or rather when, the consequences of what we’ve done to the planet become more extreme?  We now recognize that climate change will hit the poor, the very young, the elderly and the sick hardest. This is true not only in poor nations, but also here in Canada.

For these reasons, I joined the People’s Climate March thanks to Toronto350.org (our local network affiliate of 350.org) who organized the Toronto contingent.

The People’s Climate March was all the organizers had hoped it would be and much, much more. My group, from Toronto350, marched as part of the “holding those responsible accountable” block, which was towards the rear, and we probably got there around 10:00am. Already the streets were packed.  In fact, so many people showed up and the demonstration took up so many blocks, our group didn’t start moving until around 2:00pm.  Had we all started moving at the same time, we would have crushed each other.

Part of what made the march so incredible, apart from the sheer size of the turnout, was the diversity of the people and groups participating.  Families, elderly people, young people, and people from all over North America were there.  We ran into contingents from Ottawa, Halifax, and British Columbia.  We met local New Yorkers, people from up-state New York, and groups from Washington D.C. and California. There were anti-fracking activists, people fighting pipelines, coal mining and coal burning, people campaigning for clean energy, and, of course, people from communities directly affected by climate destablization such as Indigenous/First Nations communities, and survivors of Hurricane Sandy.  I really felt how interconnected we all are.

Many high-profile people showed up as well: Canada’s Elizabeth May, New York State governor Andrew Cuomo, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, Sting, Neil Young, Leonardo DiCaprio, in addition to giants in the environmental movement such as  Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. Even U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon marched.

Colourful banners, signs, posters, and stickers, were everywhere.  My favourites included the giant black carbon-bubble balloon, the giant Earth balloon, and the big green balloons that said “disrupt denial.”

Huge screens showed clips of solidarity marches around the world.  We saw the demonstrations in Paris, New Zealand, and elsewhere.

What an amazing day!  I hope that we’ll be able to keep up the momentum.  350.org, including our Toronto chapter along with other groups that organized the march, are already working on follow-up events and campaigns.  You can be sure that I’ll participate in those as well.