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People's Climate March: A Good Start

Craig Dunkerley's picture

The pitiful coverage by the corporate media notwithstanding, Sunday September 21, 2014 was the day of the largest Climate Crisis demonstration in history. With almost 400,000 attending the very long, very humid march through the streets of downtown New York City, it was even bigger than the gathering in Washington DC in 1963, made famous by Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.  I was privileged to attend... and all of us have a dream too, of a planet whose human inhabitants regain their sense of connection with the earth and all other living things so we can all survive and thrive.

The adventure started a week earlier in Emeryville where 120 fellow activists -- off all ages, colors and proclivities -- held a short rally before boarding the People's Climate Train for a 4 day journey across the U.S., heading for New York City and picking up activists along the way.  Our numbers grew by 50% by the time we got there. Each day there were more interesting people to share stories with, and many had areas of expertise to share.  There were workshops on everything from organic farming and the chemistry of climate change to transportation alternatives, the future of clean energy,  the divestment movement and other strategies to bring about change. 

I gave a well-attended talk on how money in politics is the single biggest obstacle to legislation dealing with the climate crisis. That opened a few eyes and explained some of the "bruises" we've all been getting beating our heads against the walls of Congress in futile attempts to provoke needed action.  Being on a train gave rise to the useful metaphor of parallel tracks, representing the need to work on fixing the money-in-politics problem along with whatever else anyone in the audience might rate as their #1 priority, for the simple reason that little if any progress will be made on whatever the latter might be until we deal with the former.  

The night before the big march several of us went to an event featuring speakers like Bill McKibben (founder of, Lester Brown (famous author of many books on the environment), Mary Robinson (President of Ireland and long-time anti-poverty activist), and several others. All had inspiring and sobering things to say about the need for immediate action to stop the damage being done by the cabal of "rogue" fossil fuel companies hell-bent on short term profits, regardless of the costs to the planet and the rest of us.

One of the more radical suggestions which highlighted how serious the problem really is, was that President Obama treat these rogue companies like any other terrorist group threatening humanity and issue an executive order freezing all their assets. I'm not sure if the President could actually do that, or what worldwide economic ripples might emanate from such an action, but I must confess the idea has great appeal.  That would certainly get a lot of people's attention and show both the leadership and  seriousness of purpose that've been sorely lacking to this point. And just start to imagine all the positive things that could be set in motion with such a bold move:  the redirection of assets into renewable energy development and deployment (FDR did something similar with the auto industry at the beginning of WWII), the subsidizing of whole new green industries and the jobs that would come with them, and aid that could be made available to those poor countries already being devastated by the climate change we here in the United States are primarily responsible for causing (China recently surpassed us in annual green house gas emissions, but the vast majority of all the global warming gases that have accumulated up there in the last 200 years came from the USA).

Whatever we do, we better do it fast and since the forces arrayed against humanity have most of the money, we're going to have to rely on our numbers to win back a viable future. That means each of us is going to have to be willing to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced, to move outside our comfort zones and take action when called upon.  Nothing we hold dear is guaranteed...and democracy is not a spectator sport.  "Let's roll."

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