At Climate March in New York, a Clarion Call for Action

After months of planning, the People’s Climate March began rolling through a large swath of Midtown Manhattan on Sunday, taking public frustration over stalled efforts to curb carbon emissions to the streets in a noisy, vivid display of unity.

At 11:30 a.m., the march began moving east along 59th Street from Columbus Circle, proceeding along a circuitous, two-mile route, and drawing labor and immigrant groups, students and politicians, scientists and religious leaders. The march will turn south on Avenue of the Americas, head west on 42nd Street to 11th Avenue and finish at 34th Street.

The protest comes two days before a climate summit at the United Nations, which will be attended by President Obama. The meeting is expected to create a framework for a potential global agreement on emissions late next year in Paris.

The timing of the march is significant in another regard. Last week, meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that this summer — the months of June, July and August — was the hottest on record for the globe, and that 2014 was on track to break the record for the hottest year, set in 2010.

“Climate change is no longer an environmental issue; it’s an everybody issue,” Sam Barratt, a campaign director for the online advocacy group Avaaz, which helped plan the march, said on Friday.

“The number of natural disasters has increased and the science is so much more clear,” he added. “This march has many messages, but the one that we’re seeing and hearing is the call for a renewable revolution.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, whose administration announced this weekend a sweeping plan to overhaul energy efficiency standards in all city-owned buildings, is among the high-profile participants expected to join the march, including the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon; former Vice President Al Gore; the actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo; at least two United States senators; and one-third of the New York City Council.

Additionally, nearly 2,700 climate events are planned in more than 150 countries to coincide with the march, considered the centerpiece of the international protest. They range from a small rally in Tanzania, to major demonstrations from Berlin to Bogata.

On Sunday morning, participants from across the country began to arrive at the staging area near the American Museum of Natural History. Rosemary Snow, 75, stretched her legs after a nearly 14-hour bus drive from Georgia.

“I thought we’d have a lot of younger people on the bus,” said Ms. Snow, who made the trip with her grandson. “There’s a really great mix of people.”

Ms. Snow had traveled with dozens of others who came from different parts of the state, including Valdosta, Savannah and Atlanta.

A professor at the University of Georgia, Chris Cuomo, from Decatur, Ga., said the group was organized by the Georgia Climate Change Coalition.

She said she hoped their presence at the rally would “let the rest of the world know that people from small-town America, urban America, rural America care about climate change.”

Nearby, Ahni Rocheleau of Santa Fe, N.M., was seated while eating a breakfast of organic yogurt and buckwheat pancakes. She is a member of the Great March for Climate Action, a cross-country walk to raise awareness for alternative and sustainable energy practices.

“We hope the heart and mind of the people will be awakened,” she said. “Coal is not the way to go.”

The march was expected to tie up traffic across a broad area of Manhattan, from the Upper West Side through Midtown. In a traffic advisory, the police braced the public for the closing of dozens of streets along the route. A lane for emergency vehicles, however, was kept open.

Nearly 500 buses have been bringing marchers from South Carolina, Kansas, Minnesota and Canada, while a “climate train” transported participants from California.

Marchers assembled before 11:30 a.m. north of Columbus Circle, specifically along Central Park West between 65th and 86th Streets, which the police planned to use as a staging area. A number of pre-march events were planned in the vicinity of Columbus Circle, including a labor event on Broadway, an interfaith religious service on West 58th Street and a rally by scientists outside the Hayden Planetarium on West 81st Street.

At 12:58 p.m., a moment of silence will be followed by a blare of noise — a symbolic sounding of the alarm on climate change — from horns, whistles and cellphone alarms. More than 20 marching bands and tolling church bells will contribute to the cacophony.

There will be no speeches, but the march will end with a block party on 11th Avenue between 34th and 38th Streets. There, participants can get a closer look at many of the floats and other artwork created for the march, including a 30-foot inflatable life preserver, 100 sunflowers and a model of the New York City skyline with bicyclists powering its lights.

New York’s political establishment was set to come out in force. On Friday, Mayor de Blasio announced on Twitter his intention to join the protest. “Proud to walk in #PeoplesClimate March on Sunday,” he wrote. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to leave a livable planet for the next generation.”

At least 17 council members planned to march. In a nod to the event, the Council announced a related package of bills on Friday aimed at reducing the city’s carbon footprint by connecting unemployed New Yorkers to green jobs, making buildings more energy-efficient and promoting low-carbon transportation. The legislation seeks an 80 percent reduction in the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

With its bands and colorful floats, the march offers a festive atmosphere, but organizers said that the underlying message was somber. “We are trying to celebrate our lives and this planet in order to show that this is what we are fighting for,” said Leslie Cagan, the logistics coordinator for People’s Climate March. “It’s the human spirit — and everything else on this planet — that is in danger.”

The march was organized by a dozen environmental, labor and social justice groups, including the Sierra Club, Avaaz, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, 350.org, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and 1199 S.E.I.U. In addition, more than 1,570 “partner organizations” have signed on to march.

Organizers were hoping that the warm weather forecast for the day would yield a large turnout.

“Our biggest problem is the financial power of the fossil fuel industry,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and author of “The End of Nature.”

“We can’t match that money,” he said. “So we have to work in the currency of movements — passion, spirit, creativity and bodies — and it will all be on display on Sunday.” More

 

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