Sunday, New York City, 12:58 pm. A hush fell over a crowd of hundreds of thousands. Hands raised in the air for one minute of silence, one minute to remember and honour those who have died because of climate change. And then…when the minute was up, a palpable “whoosh” of drums, cheering, chants, stomping of feet – a poignant reminder that we won’t stop raising our voices until elected leaders take urgent action on climate change.
This past Sunday, I – along with my colleagues Tim Gray and Adam Scott – joined nearly 400,000 people in New York City at the People’s Climate March, the biggest public march against climate change in history. The march was the biggest event in a Global Day of Action that saw hundreds of events held around the world, including 70 in Canada.
On Sunday, we were joined by people from across the globe, speaking out about issues like fracking, coal mining, tar sands exploitation and pipelines, indigenous rights, climate justice and extreme weather. Together, we sent a message that climate change is a real threat with real consequences now, and that we are not going to wait for slow government action. We demand a response today.
Notables at the march included 350.org founder and key march orchestrator Bill McKibbon, Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva, celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting, Mark Ruffalo, and civil rights and green jobs advocate Van Jones. Ontario’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray was there. Notably absent was our own Prime Minister, who also opted out of the UN Climate Summit this week.
I arrived in New York the day before the march, with 280 of my closest Toronto climate friends on an overnight bus organized by Toronto 350. We spent Saturday night in a church basement in Brooklyn, where we made signs and talked about why we had come to the march.
What struck me was how many people had never before been involved in anything related to climate, but decided to take their weekend (and a 12 hour bus ride both ways) to come to New York because this issue was important to them. I heard frustration at the lack of meaningful climate action from Canada. As Canadians, we wanted to show the world we know that this issue matters, despite how little our federal government is doing to address it.
On Sunday night, I left New York tired, dirty, but brimming with hope. We have a big fight ahead of us, but we are also a big number organizing by the tens, hundreds, and thousands in our communities, our provinces and states and our countries. We will continue to work side by side to stop climate change, and you can be a part of it. Take action here.