Massive environmental march a prelude to U.N. meeting

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The alarm has sounded for years. Now a draft U.N. report on the environment warns that global warming is here, caused by people, unquestionably dangerous and possibly irreversible.

With this news, activists from across the country will converge on New York City on Sept. 21 for what could become the largest climate change march in history — the People’s Climate March.

“Thousands of people from across the world, from all walks of life, will stand as one calling for global climate action,” said Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This event will show the world’s most powerful leaders that people are united in their support of this cause and want to see ambitious climate action today. It is time for world leaders to rise to the challenge.”

In late August, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change circulated the draft of a 127-page report on the state and the future of the planet. “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” the paper states.

The report warns that if the world continues to pump greenhouse gases at an accelerating rate, it’s likely that by mid-century temperatures will increase by about another 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit compared to temperatures from 1986 to 2005. And by the end of the century, that scenario will bring temperatures that are about 6.7 degrees warmer.

“Climate change is the crisis of our times,” said Bridget Burns, advocacy and communications director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization. “For too long now, political posturing, greed and complacency in ‘business as usual’ has taken precedent over justice, equality, action and ambition. But change is not something which you wait for, it’s something that you make happen.”

WEDO is one of the many organizations involved in the march, which is being held to demand action from world leaders who in the fall will begin 18 months of international negotiations. Climate negotiators will meet in New York and Copenhagen this fall, then head to Peru in December to work on a global climate deal. In September 2015, world leaders again will meet in New York to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals. Three months later, leaders will gather in Paris to negotiate a climate treaty.

Some 750 groups — from the largest transit workers union in New York City to a coalition of Buddhist monks — are involved in staging the march.

The scale of organizing rivals a major electoral campaign, with thousands of volunteers, daily phone-banks and canvasses in New York City, and a major online operation to turn out people for the march that begins at Columbus Circle.

Trains and hundreds of buses are bringing people to New York, including dedicated trains from San Francisco and D.C. and buses from multiple points outside of New York, including Madison. Much of the recruitment is taking place on college campuses.

“Young people are coming to the streets of New York in huge numbers to stand up and say we’ve had enough — we’re not going to sit back and wait for politicians to save our future,” said Adam Hasz of the environmental group SustainUS. “Instead, we’re on the front lines fighting extractive industries and proposing just policies to confront climate change and its impacts on the most vulnerable. The People’s Climate March will show that a better future is not only possible, but underway.”

In August, at a warehouse in Bushwick, artists were at work creating giant sculptures, floats and banners for the march. Others were designing posters for a subway campaign.

“The energy buzzing around the march organizing headquarters here in New York is palpable,” said May Boeve, executive director of the activist group “Every day, volunteers are hitting the phones, streets and Internet to turn people out. …This effort has already helped build the type of movement infrastructure we need to take the climate fight to the next level.”

Hundreds of events coincide with the NYC march: 

• In New Delhi, people will take to the streets on Sept. 20 to demand a renewable energy revolution.

• In Australia, organizers are expecting hundreds of individual events to take place across the country.

• In London, groups are planning a march through the city to the steps of Parliament.

• In Berlin, three parallel marches will combine forces in a festival.

• In Paris, local groups will create the Paris Marche pour le Climat, with parades, marches and bicycle rides planned across the bridges of the Seinne.

• Events also are being organized in Kathmandu, Rio, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Dublin, Manila, Seoul, Mumbai, Istanbul, Ghana, Kenya, DRC, Nigeria, Guinea and Johannesburg.

Marching out of Madison

Activists with 350 Madison are organizing a Wisconsin contingent for the People’s Climate March in New York on Sept. 21.

“We will bring our message that Wisconsin is becoming a major battleground in the fight against climate change,” said a statement from the grassroots environmental group. 

350 Madison said utilities in Wisconsin are proposing “billing schemes that are a huge detriment to renewable energy and energy efficiency” and that the Canadian company Enbridge Energy “plans to expand the Line 61 pipeline, which traverses our beautiful state from Superior to Delavan, to carry more toxic tar sands than what the controversial Keystone XL pipeline would carry.”

The grassroots group also raised concerns for “trains, carrying the potentially explosive Bakken oil” traveling through many Wisconsin communities.

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