The first People’s Climate March in 2014 was the largest climate change mobilization in history, and it made a difference. The 2017 Peoples Climate March tomorrow can be an even brighter beacon in this dark moment.
For years in the U.S., there was an inverse relationship between the urgency of the climate threat and the intensity of public concern. For all the hard work that smart, committed people were doing to fight climate change, there was no organized, broad-based insistence on climate action. In 2010, Democrats, who overwhelmingly favor climate action in polls, had control of both Congress and the White House. They passed bills on health care and Wall Street reform, but climate legislation died in the Senate. Clean power didn’t have enough people power behind it.
Then, on September 21, 2014, the people hit the streets.
Then, on September 21, 2014, the people hit the streets. Four hundred thousand of us turned out in New York City for the People’s Climate March—exceeding all expectations—and we were joined by an estimated 200,000 people in 162 other countries. Thanks to inspired organizing and the vision of every single person who showed up, that march proved to the world that there is a powerful movement to protect the planet.
More mobilization and even more progress followed, including the Obama administration’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, the establishment of the Clean Power Plan, the signing of the Paris climate agreement, a moratorium on federal coal leasing, the first ever limits on methane pollution from the oil and gas industry and a pause on construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline—in short, concrete climate action.
Yes, President Obama understood profoundly the climate threat we face. But remember that he was also a pragmatist who endorsed “clean coal” and a rush to drill for natural gas when it helped politically. We, the people in the streets, created the political space for him to act.
The climate movement has grown even stronger since that march two and a half years ago.
The climate movement has grown even stronger since that march two and a half years ago. Just in time because the mountain we are climbing just got higher. Or maybe it’s just that the mists at the top have cleared and we now have a crystal clear view of the folks who are making a killing on oil, gas and coal. No longer content to simply buy influence, they’re now running the government.
In these times, when the fundamentals of democracy, justice and the future of the planet are all in jeopardy, each of us is a historical figure. There are few relatively easy moments to stand on the right side of history—but Saturday is one of them.
Here are my three wishes for this year’s Peoples Climate March:
1. Let the turn-out be huge!
Huge enough to give the world hope that our carbon-crazy nation is not turning its back on the planet. Huge enough to alert the authorities that we, the people, won’t settle for less than climate security and climate justice. Please show up in whatever way you can on Saturday. If, like me, you can’t be in Washington, D.C., join a sister march and bring the change wherever you are! Talk to your friends and family about the climate movement; we talk too little to the people we love most about this terrifying reality and how we can help fix it.
2. Please, make solidarity real.
Climate change is the existential example of how inequity plays out in our society. And that inequity extends to the experience and safety of marching, which depend on your skin color and your privilege. We won’t prevail without courage, awareness and deep solidarity. To see what I mean, please read this blog post by a great climate leader, Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr., who was racially profiled and assaulted by police at the March for Science last week. We all need to look out for one other on Saturday and every day.
3. Let this be just the start.
Let this march galvanize enough resistance to take us beyond the Trump administration and transform the whole public discourse and system of political accountability around climate change.
If you need to get your outrage on, check out the many ways this president and Congress are working to pollute your air and water for the benefit of fossil fuel interests. Or just read the text of the President’s recent executive order on climate change and its rejection of every single good idea for federal action in the face of this unprecedented crisis.
And then, if you need a nice pick-me-up, check out Earthjustice’s feature “Bright Spots from the Resistance: Why there’s Hope for Climate and Clean Energy Progress.” We will spur the rise of clean energy state by state, as long as we can defend the basics—strong environmental laws, strong courts and a powerful will to address climate change. That’s where all of us come in.
Click here to learn more about the Peoples Climate March and find out how you can join the march in Washington, D.C., or a city near you. Download and print your own signs for the march here. (Pósters en español.)