Massive climate march puts leaders on notice

About 500,000 participated around the globe in the Peoples Climate March, and Al Jazeera spoke to some in New York.

Organisers called the protest the largest single climate change march in history [Lyle Shanahan/Al Jazeera]

New York City, United States – More than 300,000 people converged on New York City to attend what organisers called the largest single climate change march in history.

Tens of thousands of others joined the demonstration globally on Sunday. Participants said they hoped to raise awareness on the issue of global warming, as world leaders descend on New York City on Monday to attend a United Nation’s summit on climate change.

Al Jazeera spoke to a few of those who took part.

Sarah Wellington
Sarah Wellington [Lyle Shanahan/Al Jazeera]

Sarah Wellington, 31, is an activist from Brooklyn and sees the issue of climate change as part of a larger “set of connected social, environmental and civil issues”.

“I think its important for us to connect to all the social justice issues,”  Wellington said standing behind her booth where she sells a variety of political T-shirts. “We have to connect the dots on what’s happening.

The US military is a destructive force abroad.  And it is also the largest single polluter in the United States. These issues of social justice, human rights and environmental degradation are all connected,” she told Al Jazeera.

Chuck Helms


Chuck Helms [Lyle Shanahan/Al Jazeera]

Chuck Helms, 63, from New York is an active member of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

“I think that as the world begins to demand change, the government will have to react.

To change the climate we have to take the power away from the corporations that contaminate our water, take our minerals and drive global warming.

I am not sure we will see any positive change, at least not in my lifetime.

But I will be out here every day, by myself if I have to. I will fight every day, hour, minute and second till I die.”

Pierce Delahunt
Pierce Delahunt [Lyle Shanahan/Al Jazeera]

Pierce Delahunt, 26, an educator from New York, said climate change and education must be understood in tandem.   

“In education, in life, everything is about intersectionality. All the issues connect with other issues. If one of the premises of a school is to leave the world a better place, we must then address climate change. If not, we’re going to be facing catastrophe after catastrophe.

Our community, our families and our students want to know this stuff. They get frustrated that their education has no real application. When they finally learn about climate change, they always ask why they had not been taught this before.”

Clark Fox

Clark Fox, 56, is a member of the Cherokee Nation and a longtime New York City artist. He spoke about the momentum the climate movement has today in comparison to previous times. 

Clark Fox [Lyle Shanahan/Al Jazeera]

“Today, everyone knows about what happens when we destroy our environment, and they come out in protest. But we [Native Americans] have been saying it as long as the white people have been here destroying the land. 

For us everything is sacred. You have to respect everything and find balance.

Today we are spinning out of control and they [governments] do nothing about it.

I was demonstrating here in ’64 against people getting killed in Vietnam. And today I’m back because climate change is killing people.”

Sheldon Carns
Sheldon Carns [Lyle Shanahan/Al Jazeera]

Sheldon Carns from Troy, New York, said curbing climate change “has everything to do with changing how we raise our children”. 

“I feel like we have gone beyond climate change by now,” said Sheldon, grasping the end of a conch shell that he periodically blew into, producing an impressive sound. “We need to change the way we bring up our children.

First we awaken them, then we communicate with them, and the third we let them connect with wild nature, to be naked on the seashore. So they make that real connection. Those doors and windows will open up and humanity will once again be what it is, instead of these diminished beings walking around.”

Patricia Serrano & Yohei Suzuki

Patricia Serrano and her partner Yohei Suzuki both came to the march from out of town. Patricia said she came to “give power back to the community to protect our Earth and future generations”.

 Yohei Suzuki and Patricia Serrano [Lyle Shanahan] 

“I think it’s ridiculous that people are cutting down rainforests for cattle feed. We need oxygen.

I’m basically doing this for my children and my children’s children. The environment, if we don’t take it into our own hands, what’s going happen? Nothing good.

Yohei, who works for the European Union at the centre of non-violence, spoke about the importance of these types of events.  

“It helps increase awareness on climate issues. If even only one person or two persons are affected, then we will have succeeded.”

Rosa Bortallo
Rosa Bortallo [Lyle Shanahan/Al Jazeera]

Rosa Bortallo, 21, grew up in Guam. She spoke about her home – a place acutely affected by climate change – and the need to understand the unequal impacts of global warming, which she says have “disproportionate effects on marginalised populations” throughout the globe. 

“It’s all of us on the small islands in the Pacific that are the first to suffer from climate change. Acidification of the Pacific Ocean is a big deal, and Guam has taken in tons of refugees. Climate change affects millions of people today. We need to wake up. So I am really here to speak up for the islands, the small islands that don’t have a voice.”

Impressed by the turnout and the 1,400 different groups that attended, she told Al Jazeera: “I have faith that this is a big step forward. Organisers galvanise people. When it comes time to vote for leaders, maybe this will help hold them accountable. This is one of the benefits of Occupy Wall Street. It created the conditions where these organisations could meet and collaborate. This is important. We need a wakeup call.”

Casey Michum
Casey Michum [Lyle Shanahan/Al Jazeera]

Casey Michum, a college student from Syracuse, New York, spoke about the effects of climate change.

“We have the putrefaction of oceans, all the species in the ocean are my brothers. They are suffering.

It will start there, then slowly trickle down the line to this human population that is over its capacity.”

Mike Cliff
Mike Cliff [Lyle Shanahan/Al Jazeera]

Mike Cliff, a young Native American man from South Dakota, spoke about environmental justice issues that afflict Native American and other minority groups throughout the world.

“We [Native Americans] have been supporting this kind of initiative for decades. For us, climate change, mining, oil development – it’s all connected. Even today a corporation is trying to build a pipeline through our sacred homeland. We’re here in solidarity with the people of the world to try and stop this.”

Sean Campbell is a union member who deals with waste disposal and recycling in New York.

“We understand that climate change, sustainability, recycling, waste management are all connected. We are here on the front lines, and we want to find sustainable solutions that if done properly, means more jobs and a better world. That’s what this is all about.”

Source: Al Jazeera