People’s Climate March Suggests the Time Is Now



From Perth, Australia to Johannesburg, South Africa, and from London, England to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, climate marches were held in 166 countries across the globe on Sept. 21 in the largest rally of its kind. But, the spotlight was on New York City, where organizers of The People’s Climate March have estimated this particular movement was more than 300,000 people strong, with at least 50 of them representing Manhattan College.

Accompanying the U.N. Climate Summit, which began on Sept. 23 and itself prefaces the even more crucial U.N. climate talks scheduled to take place in Paris next year, Sunday’s march in New York was complimented by Mayor Bill De Blasio’s announcement of his plans to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in the next 35 years.

Demonstrators peacefully migrated down Central Park West, advancing east on 59th Street to Sixth Avenue, and eventually to 42nd Street before turning left on Eleventh Avenue, collecting more than 30 blocks and nearly two and a half miles. But, by the time the march concluded at 34th Street, skeptics were already asking the question of what happens now?

What does happen now? While Sunday’s march earned deserved attention, many of us wonder how effective it can be, or more importantly, how effective it actually will be. While physically exhausted, Casey Barrett, president of the Manhattan College Green Club, was encouraged and optimistic after the march.

“Turnout alone doesn’t mean climate change is defeated,” Barrett said, noting what necessary, fundamental responsibilities are required for change. “Regardless of what policies or regulations the U.N. comes up with on the issue, to really tackle climate change, it is going to require every single person at the march to make changes in their homes, schools and communities.”

And if 300,000 of us were, in fact, to make changes in our homes, schools, and communities?  “That alone will have a significant impact,” Barrett said.

Considering the size of the People’s Climate March, it suggests not only that more than ever is there an increasing awareness of climate change, but that the idea of this awareness having some effect is heading in the right direction. It’s an idea like so many others before, it seems, whose time has finally come.

So, when Australians, South Africans, Brits and Brazilians, teachers, scientists, children and their grandparents, and particularly, in New York City, when victims of Hurricane Sandy demonstrated on Sunday their aging frustration, commenced for an overdue meeting, they also demonstrated a readiness.

So, what happens now? Perhaps it’s time we find out.