NEW YORK CITY, New York — “This is what democracy looks like,” chanted the back end of the People’s Climate March in New York City. Perhaps no cheer from that day better described the essence of the historic climate change rally that united nearly 400 thousand in peaceful protest.
Protestors, united in frustration with inaction on climate change, took to the streets across the globe. The New York City turnout of 400 thousand broke records on its own. However, other participating cities ranged from London to Rome.
The People’s Climate community was as diverse as it was expansive. Marchers came with political groups, friends and family, and some came on their own. Many travelled long distances to walk in unison with the protest. People’s Climate organizers said they wanted representatives from all walks of life in attendance, to show the varied ways climate change affects people’s lives.
Prominent climate activists and celebrities were amongst the massive crowd. Attendants included actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Mark Ruffalo, former vice president Al Gore, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“It was something bigger than any of us,” said marcher David Lage. “But after the march ended, there was a strange energy. Like everyone was thinking ‘now what?’”
The march occurred as international world leaders entered the city for the United Nations Climate Summit. The summit would address the growing threat of carbon pollution. President Barack Obama was amongst the attendees, and the impact of the march was apparent during his speech.
“We have to raise our collective ambition,” said the president in his address to the UN, adding that the world’s children deserve more ambition.
“I believe [the march]will influence [politicians]to make a change, and if not, we’ll see them next year, bright and early,” said Lage.
If the size of the crowd didn’t send a message to world leaders, many of the visuals throughout likely would. Hurricane Sandy victims carried life preservers, fishers from the Gulf of Mexico held banners reading “The seas are rising and so are we!” Even small children held signs with their parents.
At 12:59 there was a moment of silence for all lives that have already suffered from or have been lost to the effects of climate change. The city was essentially silenced, left with silent echoes of hope and unity amongst marchers. After the moment of silence, a wave of screams erupted through the city, a symbolic “sounding of the climate alarm.”
“It’s hard to comprehend how many people are there until we all shut up,” said Lage. “It was an eerie feeling. A sea of people, their hands in the air, it was like a surrender. Until a wave crept over the crowd like a storm. Only then, I truly knew how many people were there. I could feel them, and it was emotional.”
– Ellie Sennett
Sources: Huffington Post, NY Times