This Sunday 9/21 in New York City, tens or hundreds of thousands of people will be marching through the streets as part of the People's Climate March, a demonstration that's slated to be the largest of its kind by a long shot.
That's a big deal for lots of reasons. For one, virtually every reputable climate scientist in the world agrees we are currently on the brink of a human-caused climate catastrophe.
If the word "climate" doesn't mean much to you, or makes your eyes glaze over, read on. Beyond the political battles and rhetoric is one of the most significant justice issues the world has ever faced. It's not about polar bears and saving the trees (unless you like that sort of thing). It's about the millions of people around the world who are being hit hardest by a problem they didn't create.
And with each passing month we are inching towards global climatic "tipping points" that will make the threat of climate change many times greater, more costly and ultimately beyond our control. It's time for action -- big action.
Enter the People's Climate March. Here are here are 5 things the organizers are doing right, and why you should be there on Sunday:
1. The People's Climate March is a massive action for a massive problem. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced as a civilization, and this march is slated to be one of the most significant demonstrations for climate justice in history. Petitions and phone calls have their place, but this is an opportunity to take an action whose size is proportional to the threat.
2. The March is bringing people together at the right time in the right place. We're on the brink of global catastrophe, with hundreds of thousands of people already suffering immensely. The science is clear and irrefutable. If there was ever a time to hit the streets, it's NOW.
And if there was ever a place, it's New York City -- a city that showed us exactly what kind of future we're headed towards as it bore the brunt of Hurricane Sandy, and exactly how much harder the poor and marginalized are hit when that happens. New York is home to some of the most powerful businesses and decision-makers in the world, and two days after the People's Climate March it will host the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit.
It's true, this UN Climate Summit may not produce many meaningful, binding climate agreements from world leaders. But if we always waited for the perfect time when leaders are likely to make a change, we'd probably be waiting forever. The climate won't wait for an ideal moment, and neither should we. It's time to make the world's decision-makers pay attention to us, regardless of what they're up to.
3. The March is bringing together a wide array of groups (unions, businesses, faith groups, social justice groups, environmental groups) to build power and to build morale, and we need that. When we're organized, energized and working together, we will be unstoppable. If Sunday's march is even half of what the organizers say it will be, it will yield many new collaborations and relationships, and it will boost morale for a movement fighting incredible odds.
Like it or not, decision-makers tend to pay attention to two things: money, and organized groups of people. They've been getting LOTS of money from fossil fuel companies in recent years.
We can beat that with people power, but to do that we need strong and lasting relationships between a far-reaching set of groups. The People's Climate March has an unprecedented 1400 partner organizations standing together, with more on the way.
4. The March puts the focus on the hardest hit. It's time to stand behind people on the front-lines of climate change -- the people and communities who are being hit first and hardest. It's time for mainstream and/or predominantly white organizations to step aside, listen and use their power and resources to amplify the efforts of groups who are at the heart of this struggle and are often marginalized. The groups organizing and resourcing the People's Climate March have supported a participatory, decentralized organizing model and have put a primary focus on front-line communities.
5. The March is setting the stage for more targeted and radical action in NYC in the coming days, and is showcasing the breadth of all the incredible climate organizing that's happening. The framing of the People's Climate March is intentionally very open, which does two important things: it make it possible to assemble and build power between a much wider coalition of groups, AND it means that there will be tens or hundreds of thousands of people in NYC for more radical actions like #FloodWallStreet, and for justice-focused events like the People's Climate Justice Summit. We need all of it: demonstrations of power, collaboration and inter-movement listening and learning and radical non-violent direct action.
It's time to take action. The climate outlook is alarming, and if you notice yourself experiencing any resignation, cynicism or hopelessness about it, you're in good company. And nevertheless, the question that we all face is: am I willing to take action, no matter how impossible it seems?
That's what the People's Climate March is about. It's about assembling the power and energy of the people who know that lives and livelihoods are hanging in the balance, and taking action towards the just future we see.
The march begins on Sunday 9/21 at 11:30am at Central Park West, between 65th and 86th streets (it's a big march). If you can't make it to NYC, check out one of the 1,000+ People's Climate Actions around the country and around the planet this weekend.
As Nelson Mandela said, "It always seems impossible until it's done." So let's do this.
Disclosure: I periodically work as a contract trainer for 350.org, one of the organizations behind the People's Climate March. I did not receive compensation for this post.