“Planet Over Profit”, “Windmills not Weapons”, “Don’t Frack with U.S.”

These were a few of the signs we saw in Manhattan on Sunday, 9/21, when eight members of First Churches got off the Haydenville UCC bus, one of 450 buses coming in from all over the country, and joined 400,000 people (including Peter and Jenny Ives) for the People’s Climate March, an all-day parade organized by Bill McKibben’s 360.Org and supported by almost every progressive group in the US. Why? It was an attempt to influence 100 world leaders coming to a Climate Summit at the UN two days later. At the last climate conference, these leaders gave fancy speeches, then went home and did business as usual. Pres. Obama called for “voluntary” climate goals. As a result, the US, China, and India spewed more carbon into the air last year than any year before. All reputable scientists in the world agree that if this pattern continues, the planet, which is already losing its arctic ice cap, will experience rising temperatures, famine, and increasingly destructive storms and flooding, eventually becoming unlivable.carbon

So here we were at the Climate March. What was it like? All kinds of people crowding the streets, many holding signs: Young people, old people, white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, native Americans, kids holding parent’s hands, babies in strollers, elders in wheelchairs, dogs on leashes. Police standing along the sidewalks (no arrests were made that day). Chanting slogans like:  “No war! No warming!”, “People, peace, and the planet!” Inspiring music from marching bands — 125 of them. Painted birds flying on top of cardboard tubes (no sticks allowed), puppet figures 10 feet high gesturing with long extended arms. A huge blow-up silver bomb floating above the crowd, with message:  “oil wars — global warming — climate wars” Another blow-up, a giant silver “carbon bubble,” propelled upward by a group of extended arms, then threatening to land on our heads — Shove off! A 3-wheeled solar-assisted pedal car that can carry 500 lb. of freight.

At 89th Street our section of the parade stopped to hear some speeches by people on the climate-change frontlines: the Prime Minister of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, six feet above sea level.  A  Native- American woman from Canada’s tar sands area. Tom Hayden talking about the California drought this year, the longest in its history. It was difficult to hear the speeches because a helicopter was loudly droning around and around over our heads, and the crowd was pressing in closer and closer. Apparently large groups of people were joining the parade further up the line, causing a traffic jam. We were stalled there for three hours.

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How satisfying to finally get moving, along Central Park Ave and thru downtown Manhattan with its beautiful old churches and museums, skyscrapers and colorful flashing billboards. Friendly crowds watched from the sidewalks. On one park hillside, a large interdenominational group sat cross-legged, meditating. The weather cooperated with cloudy skies, but none of the predicted rain. The walk took four hours, a couple of our marchers pushed wheelchairs, but not one of our party collapsed. We were all very tired, but satisfied to have come. Bill McKibben called the parade “mildly chaotic but incredibly beautiful.”

Did we do any good? Who knows?  Three days later the Gazette printed this front-page headline: “Climate summit produces no binding pledges.”

Submitted by Sue Norton