Awesome: I was among an estimated
310,000 final count 400,000 people in NYC yesterday, taking the streets to call attention to the ongoing catastrophe that is climate change, and to show power, numbers and commitment. That was one long line, stretching from 81st and Central Park West down to 34th and 11th, with a jaunt eastward to 6th between 59th and 42nd Streets. I am told that the folks at the front of the line finished the march at about the time that those of us at the back of the line even got started.
The energy was joyous; the crowd was diverse in age; and somewhat so in ethnicity. I was wearing a coat and tie and brought my “I’M A CLIMATE DAD” sign, both of which invited curious comment from other marchers. But this way, I met and talked to a number of folks: the young man with a gentle voice and hipster beard, with the sign saying “I’m walking for MY NIECE”; two veterans of the Climate Ride, wearing their bike shirts (man I want to do the NYC -> DC Ride someday – next year!); a young woman from western Alberta, who lamented how difficult it was to get people involved, even at the epicenter of the Keystone XL controversy; oh, and I got interviewed by an LA filmmaker, asking what I thought of all these Millennial youngsters. Too funny. Lesson: If you want to stand out at a protest rally, wear a suit.
I gather that this event has been mostly ignored by the TV network news, as if we needed more evidence how pathetic and useless they are. NPR gave the march and the UN climate meeting reasonably thorough treatment this morning. My cousin in Nebraska said she’d heard nothing of the march, to which I’m not surprised. Thank goodness for social media, I suppose.
But the march is not merely intended for the UN conferees, or the media. It’s for the marchers to see each other, to recognize that many individuals bear this weight on their consciences, and that we are there for each other. (This was the great revelation of lefty political blogging in the dark years of the mid-2000′s as well.) And indeed, climate has to be brought out of the shadows, out of its niche, as it were. It is a profoundly unsettling topic; I found myself agreeing with this HuffPo contributor that climate is a “conversation killer” that mostly makes people want to think about something else. I understand and empathize with that reaction, which I even get from some the most “enlightened”, progressive folks I know. In my self-consciousness I’ve suspected that talking about it gives one the air of an earnest, well-meaning eccentric, to whom one might smile indulgently and say, “Well of course it’s important, but the issue of the moment is really XYZ.” Hell, I don’t want to think about it either.
But merely that it doesn’t swallow us all at once, or that it doesn’t possess a malevolent human face with a nasty cruel mustache, does not mean that action is not pressing. The window of opportunity for us to stave off even greater catastrophe is vanishingly small, not just in geoscientific terms but in human political terms. To say it’s not urgent is like being content that only your first floor flooded, but the second floor is still dry; or that you can ignore your diabetes because you’ve still got one working kidney.
The march gives us something a bit more hopeful to talk about — itself. We hear not just the footsteps of the climate threat, but our own footsteps on the street. It sounded good.
PS: And now, #floodwallstreet is a thing: