The Climate in Emergency

A weekly blog on science, news, and ideas related to climate change

Marching Orders

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A (hopefully) huge climate march is coming up this September 21st in New York City. Being there could make a difference.

The People’s Climate March, as it is being billed, is not the product of a single organization’s efforts. Instead, it is a cooperative effort of many groups–eight hundred and fifty of them, at last count. The organizers are still soliciting more partners, so if you have a group of your own, sign on and see how you can help.

The reason it is in Manhattan, rather than Washington DC, is that the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki Moon, has called for a special international conference on climate change in New York for that week. Unlike most meetings of the UN, this one does not involve UN delegates but rather heads of state.

The march is not to be a protest but rather a show of support; world leaders (especially those of the United States, who are both democratically elected and vulnerable to lobbying by the fossil fuel industries) need to be able to see that the people will support efforts to do something about climate change. They need to know there is political will backing them up. Only then can they act.

The organizers are helping to coordinate both transportation and housing. You can go to their website for more information or to sign up for email updates. An interesting possibility involves The Great March for Climate Action, a separate event that began in March and will continue until the beginning of November–a march that literally crosses the country. They will take a break from their own route to join the march in New York, traveling in a group from Indiana and then returning. If you want to join the Great March for a while, you can therefore get to NYC by hitching a ride with them. Conversely,if you go to NYC for The People’s March, you can go Indiana with the Great March and join their trek for a while.

Obviously, you would need to speak to event organizers about this.

Besides the NYC march itself, there will be other, related events in the days before and the days after the 21st of September. If you cannot get to the United States, there will be other coordinated events in other countries–their website has information on that, too. So far, there do not appear to be coordinated events in other parts of the US, but you could probably organize one yourself. If getting to New York is difficult for you, do an internet search for “people’s march for climate [your state]” and see if any local organizations are chartering buses in your area.

If you cannot get to New York, call the White House AND your Congresspeople on that day. If it’s busy (and hopefully it will be) call back.

This is about sending a signal. I have friends who poo-poo marches and other public demonstrations as ineffective, and it is true that public figures can generally ignore them. A march cannot force action. Using a whole bunch of gas to drive to New York seems counterproductive as well (although, public transportation and chartered buses and trains should help with that!).

However, in the United States, the electorate can force action, and a really BIG march is an indication of what the electorate will do. Large demonstrations can bring a lot of pressure to bear even in non-democratic countries (as in the Arab Spring) and they have been effective in the United States in the past even when most of the marches effectively could not vote (as in the civil rights marches).

Marches matter if people show up to march in them.

I have covered other demonstrations on this blog before. In the process I’ve discovered that a lot of people who might want to go typically don’t find out about the march in time and that media coverage of the demonstration itself is generally very minimal. I therefore humbly offer the following suggestions:

  • Encourage your friends and associates–everyone you know–to go to the march
  • If you belong to a political or activist organization of some type, get involved as a group
  • Go on the march, if you can
  • If you cannot, on the day of the march, contact your elected representatives to tell them to act on climate change
  • Encourage everyone you know to also contact their elected representatives on that day
  • After the march, check your local newspapers and news broadcasts and for favorite online news sources. If any do not cover the march, write in or email them to complain. Your letters could get published, making YOU a journalist covering the event.

There are people who don’t want to do anything about climate change for various reasons. Many of them probably cannot be convinced. However, it is easy to forget that a lot of people DO take the issue seriously. A demonstration is a good time to stand up and be counted.

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Author: Caroline Ailanthus

I am a creative science writer. That is, most of my writing is creative rather than technical, but my topic is usually science. I enjoy explaining things and exploring ideas. I have one published novel and another on the way. I have a master's degree in Conservation Biology and I work full-time as a writer.

6 thoughts on “Marching Orders

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Caroline! I’m on the Great March for Climate Action, currently in Sterling, Illinois. Anyone who would like to ride with us on a bus from northeast Indiana to NYC and back for the People’s Climate March can contact Jimmy Betts at jimmy@climatemarch.org.

    Our Chicago march & rally and other events are next weekend – September 6-7, and people can see our Illinois schedule (check back for updates) at http://climatemarch.org/illinois/

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