On Sunday in New York City, the largest demonstration ever to protest inaction regarding climate change took place. The People’s Climate March saw just over 311,00 people gather to protest governmental inaction on the crisis. It’s hard to tell what kind of impact it will have, but as the father of a 10-year old, I’m hopeful that the efforts will help to at least focus the attention of America on the great challenge of our time.
We have thankfully moved away from the nonsensical argument as to whether our environment is rapidly changing and whether that change coinciding near perfectly with rises in carbon output is more than coincidence. Still, the action that has been taken to address man’s impact on the warming of our planet has been, at best, woeful. The organizers and participators in Sunday’s march want that to change.
Much of the mainstream media focused on celebrity appearances, but much more impressive was the cadre of experts who had boots on the ground. Perhaps no one has been more front and center in ringing the alarm regarding climate change than Bill McKibben and James Hansen, both of whom were a big part of Sunday's march.
McKibben, author of The End of Nature, and perhaps the premier environmentalist in the U.S., told the New York Times this month, “We’re going to sound the burglar alarm on people who are stealing the future,” adding, “It’s not just that things are not getting better. They are getting horribly worse. Unlike any other issue we have faced, this one comes with a time limit. If we don’t get it right soon, we’ll never get it right.”
Hansen, a former NASA scientist who currently teaches at Columbia, is perhaps the issue’s foremost - and undoubtedly most vocal - climatologist. In 2012, he was arrested for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, proposed to haul Canadian tar sand oil to the U.S. More than 40,000 showed up for that demonstration, despite a near total media blackout, beyond a few mentions when actress Daryl Hannah was arrested.
Sunday's rally was the largest in NYC since 1982, when upward of a million people demonstrated in Central Park to call for an end to the Cold War arms race – to date the largest political demonstration in American history. 1,400 partner organizations were involved in Sunday's effort, with marchers organized from more than 300 colleges as well. Some 2,700-plus related events all over the globe also took place to coincide with the march.
The issues they hoped to draw some attention to included defending the third world countries most vulnerable to an issue they’ve done the least to create (or benefit by); calling out those who are holding back progress, and showing that change is definitely possible but will require all hands on deck. The mindset of those driving the movement is that it’s no longer about whether there’s a problem or whether we’re capable of fixing it, but about getting started in a meaningful way before it’s too late – which is to say right now.
The cause is aided by recent studies and reports that support both the dire state of the planet and the technological and economic feasibility of trying to repair it. The UN’s most recent climate report is nothing short of terrifying, but the idea that economic growth and carbon emission reduction are mutually exclusive had major holes shot in it by a recent paper at the IMF and a major study by the New Climate Economy Project. Both are mentioned in an excellent recent column by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who makes a strong argument against what he’s dubbed the “climate despair” crowd.
So no matter where you fall in the debate, it’s time to concede that burying heads in the sand and pretending other people will just work this out is long past. If our kids and grand-kids are to have a shot at a meaningful future, it’s going to require not only a bit of sacrifice and adjustment but mutual recognition that we’re all in this together and are operating against the clock. Sunday's march served to put out the call. I hope dearly it is answered.
|Photo by Shadia Fayne courtesy of Project Survival Media|
Dennis Maley's column appears every Thursday and Sunday in The Bradenton Times. He can be reached at email@example.com. Click here to visit his column archive. Click here to go to his bio page. You can also follow Dennis on Facebook.
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