If climate justice campaigners in the U.S. have it right, a September meeting of world leaders in New York City could be the best opportunity in years to flex their movement's grassroots muscles by staging a mass demonstration in Manhattan's streets as they call for radical and immediate international action to address the increasingly dire crises of global warming and climate change.
"Together, we’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet. A world safe from the ravages of climate change. A world with good jobs, clean air, and healthy communities for everyone." —People's Climate March organizers
In a new article published in Rolling Stone on Wednesday, 350.org co-founder and lead spokeperson Bill McKibben announced the demonstration and issued an open invitation to anyone—from around the country and across the globe—"who'd like to prove to themselves, and to their children, that they give a damn about the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced."
The target of the march will be the UN's 2014 Climate Summit, designed to bring government policy-makers along with business, finance, civil society and local leaders from around the world together ahead of the next official UN Conference on Climate Change scheduled for 2015 in Paris.
Articulating his vision and the purpose of the weekend event, McKibben writes:
My guess is people will come by the tens of thousands, and it will be the largest demonstration yet of human resolve in the face of climate change. Sure, some of it will be exciting – who doesn't like the chance to march and sing and carry a clever sign through the canyons of Manhattan? But this is dead-serious business, a signal moment in the gathering fight of human beings to do something about global warming before it's too late to do anything but watch.
In an email to Common Dreams, 350.org communications director Jamie Henn indicated that planning is well underway for the event.
"An incredible coalition of groups in New York City and around the world have come together to call for this march," Henn said. "It's a big moment. If you were waiting on the sidelines for the historic mobilization on climate change, now is the time to get in the game."
This is an invitation to change everything.
In September, world leaders are coming to New York City for a historic summit on climate change. With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history.
Together, we’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet. A world safe from the ravages of climate change. A world with good jobs, clean air, and healthy communities for everyone.
To change everything, we need everyone on board. September 20-21 in New York City. Join us.
Though McKibben acknowledges in his essay that "it's true that marching doesn't always work," he argues that at this moment in the climate change fight—and in addition to all the other necessary activities and strategies of the climate movement—"taking to the streets is very much necessary."
And the point of action like this, McKibben continues, is that "sometimes you can grab the zeitgeist by the scruff of the neck and shake it a little." Though much of the best climate work is being done in local communities, far from centers of power, he writes, sometimes large displays are not only gratifying, but necessary.
Day to day this resistance is rightly scattered, local and focused on the more mundane: installing a new zoning code, putting in a solar farm, persuading the church board to sell its BP stock. But sometimes it needs to come together and show the world how big it's gotten. That next great moment is late September in New York. See you there.
For those wishing to attend, organizers urged them to sign-up and add their voice of support here. Many, responding to the announcement, were offering their reactions on Twitter under the hashtag #peoplesclimate: