Climate justice activists and community members are coming together throughout the country on Wednesday to demand urgent action from world leaders on the environment, workers rights, social justice, and other issues ahead of next month's United Nations COP21 talks in Paris.
Actions are expected in more than 175 communities across 40 states as part of the National Day of Action on Climate, calling for an end to fossil fuels and investment in sustainable energy and justice for frontline communities.
In Washington, D.C., members of labor, environmental, justice, student, and faith groups held a die-in outside of the American Petroleum Institute (API) to demonstrate the human cost of the oil lobby's push for controversial deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which critics say would devastate the climate by weakening environmental protection rules and expanding the fossil fuel trade.
"This isn't just about carbon, it's about justice," said Anthony Torres, a campus organizer with Fossil Free AU and a COP21 youth delegate. "Institutions, like API, have profited off the destruction of ecosystems and communities across the world. We must divest from fossil fuels, transform our economies and our politics, and stand together on the streets to fight for a more just, inclusive, and sustainable future."
Lisa Brown, executive vice president of the Maryland-D.C. healthcare workers chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), added, "Climate change public health impacts fall disproportionately on Maryland's communities of color and poorest communities—where you live shouldn't determine if you live."
"Dirty air adds stress to heart and lungs and can lead to asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and health complications," Brown continued. "We call on our leaders in the global trade and international climate negotiations to solve this public health crisis with cleaner air while creating good paying clean energy jobs."
Wednesday's actions seek to build on the momentum of last year's historic People's Climate March, which drew over 400,000 people to New York City on September 21 to demand global environmental action.
But the urgency has increased this time around, with the COP21 talks coming in just a few weeks and recent environmental reports affirming the need for sweeping and immediate climate action, globally and locally.
"Climate change disproportionately impacts low-income people, workers, and communities of color here in Ohio and around the world. It is critical that we protect these populations from the impact of environmental degradation while respecting the rights of Indigenous people and their communities," said Jonathan Mettle-Nunoo, an SEIU member-leader.
Meanwhile, activists in Seattle will march through the city to tell global leaders that "this is critical moment in history where we can decide how we respond to the global problem of climate change," as Rich Stolz, executive director of immigration rights group OneAmerica, told Seattle Pi.
"On Wednesday, a new movement comprised of immigrants, people of color, workers and environmentalists will join together to send a message that will be heard from Seattle to Paris," Stolz said. "Climate change affects all our communities and we demand that the communities on the front lines, who bear the brunt of the ill effects of climate change and the pollution that causes it, have a voice when deciding how to fight it."
Follow the action on Twitter with the hashtag #PeoplesClimate or visit the live blog.