Marching We Will Go

Actually, we did go! You know the day after a really great workout that sore satisfied feeling you have? Well the same goes for the biggest climate march in the world, ever.

Yesterday, September 21st, in New York City 400,000 people gathered along Central Park West to march through midtown Manhattan demanding just climate action from world leaders. Taking place two days before the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Climate Summit, the march served a few purposes. First, it created a reason for people to engage with one another and grow the climate movement to those who have been ambivalent beforehand. Second, we demanded that our governments look and listen to us. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon received a lot of criticism from after the amount of corporate involvement in the Summit was understood. We wanted to make sure that next year's climate negotiations in Paris are not yet another disappointment for emissions reductions due to government-big business alliance. And the third priority was to create networks between the many, many groups who care about the current climate crisis. Climate change affects everyone in very different ways. Now we can see the faces of one another and find ways to collaborate toward lasting equitable solutions together.

The People's Climate March brought together diverse groups of people from civil society, industry, academics, the non-profit sector and more from around the United States and world. There were also thousands (over 2,800 in fact!) of demonstrations large and small around the world in 166 countries on Saturday and Sunday. 

I had the privilege of coordinating and marching alongside the women's contingent in the name of climate and gender justice. Climate change is considered an environmental issue, but the only time environmental issues truly matter to society is when they impact us negatively. The reason 400,000 people gathered and walked the long and winding route from Central Park to 34th street and 11th avenue is because our changing climate is a social justice problem. It exacerbates every single inequality that already exists and creates new ones. It widens the gap between the haves and have-nots. It sacrifices those who are least at fault for it's occurrence.

Gender inequalities are particularly painful. Women's rights are non-existence in many societies and cultures, including areas most threatened by climate change. The poor are particularly at risk, and as women constitute over 70% of the world's poor they will endure (or fall to) the most severe consequences. Women account for nearly 80% global food production, yet have little access to resources to make agriculture less vulnerable to climate shocks.

The funniest thing about the gender and climate issue is that despite the fact that women are on the frontline of climate change and must find ways managing the impacts, we have very little representation in the political arena. A recent study showed of the 49 countries that reduced their carbon dioxide emissions between 1990 and 2007, 14 were high HDI (human development index countries), meaning they basically have more rights, fewer below the poverty line, and growing economies. Of those 14, 10 of them had higher than average female parliamentary representation. To solve the climate problem we must address women's human rights; bring women out of poverty and increase their formal leadership in governments and informal leadership in communities.

My aching arms and lethargic legs are a beautiful reminder of the march yesterday. From the moment I arrived at the line-up at 9am until I reached the final assembly space at 3:30pm the energy and solidarity of our cause pulsed through me. Now I look forward to fostering the new bonds with my new comrades to continue our crusade for climate justice!

ps- Did I mention the first female President of Finland and amazing woman Tarja Halonen marched alongside the women's contingent!? That was pretty awesome too...

 

Check out more coverage on the beautiful gathering from some of my favorite sources:

The New York Times' key points of the march and the city's role in making it happen;

Grist captures the massive scale;

Slate's great on-the-ground recap, plus alludes to what needs to come next.

And enjoy a few of the scenes from my vantage point (and one from above!) 

 

Central Park West march line-up via peoplesclimate.org

Women's Environment & Development Organization fellows Joanna Patouris and Gina Stovall (me); photo by Colin Hughes

Women for Climate (and Gender) Justice; logo design and photo by Colin Hughes

WEDO's Advocacy and Communications Director leading the call. 'What do we want? CLIMATE JUSTICE! When do we want it? NOW!'

System Change NOT Climate Change; photo by Colin Hughes

WEDO Fellows from left to right: Yeniva, Latha, Gina and Joanna with honorable mention to Iliana and Lora who are unfortunately not pictured.

Check out #peoplesclimate on any social media platform for millions more inspiring photos and this earlier post on the march's promotional movie Disruption!