Enveloped in a sea of over 400,000 people in colorful costumes, all brandishing posters with a limitless amount of original slogans, winding from 86th street to 34th, I’ve never felt more at home singing Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land Is Your Land.” For one afternoon, the streets of New York City had become our land entirely.
A frenetic spirit hung over the People’s Climate March on Sunday, said to be the largest environmental rally in history. Droves of protestors took over the streets of Manhattan to demand world leaders take action in the face of the climate crisis. The march comes days ahead of a United Nations climate summit of 120 nations called by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — a gear up for an even bigger climate conference and forthcoming treaty in Paris come 2015. The march’s purpose, if anything, was to serve as both a warning and a scream: a vast public demands greenhouse gas emissions be cut.
The march also came on the tail of the release of some bleak figures. The Global Carbon Initiative just announced that in the year 2013 greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent, a record level of emissions. Scientists predict that greater efforts would be needed in order to get long-term global warming within stable, livable limits.
Those in attendance included environmental activist Bill McKibben, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Jane Goodall, and former Vice President Al Gore. But more significant were the other groups — indigenous people, labor unions, socialists, elders, students, and gay rights activists all recognizing that this isn’t one person’s issue, it’s everyone’s. As the march started, all 400,000 attendees were asked to raise their hands to the sky and take a moment of silence. In one rare moment, New York City seemed to hold completely still. Then, with a sense of urgency in the air, marchers sang, cheered, and shouted with fervor, knowing the media was watching and knowing the stakes are as high as ever.
These are just some of the many faces of the historic protest.
A couple’s posters convey the inextricable link between the climate and the global economy.
The People’s Climate March organizers provided poster board for marchers reading, “I’m Marching for…” Attendees answers ranged from succinct to humorous to absurd. “I’m marching for… a sustainable future!” “I’m marching for…your baby’s baby’s world.” “I’m marching for…you.” “I’m marching for…Moose Sex.”
“To Change Everything, It Takes Everyone” reads the banner of the sixth wave of marchers filled with LGBTQ community groups, NYC boroughs, neighborhoods, states, and other countries.
“R.I.P. Humanity” reads a mock tombstone that one woman marching on roller-skates made.
One couple remains clever with their posters.
Bilingual community organization City Life/Vida Urbana points to troubling eviction rates as another thread in the intricate social crisis.
Justin, a 26-year-old organic farmer from Massachusetts proclaims he is marching for “common sense.”
Parachutes were used as large group-held banners in lieu of heavy signs.
One of the more exciting costumes of the march.
Members of New York City’s five boroughs march together in solidarity.
Part of the “The Debate Is Over” wave of the march, scientists line up to take action.
Live bands encourage sing-alongs and lead the rhythm of the march.
Art puppets depicting Mother Nature.
Members of the LGBTQ wave prepare to march.