Sunday, September 28, 2014

176.3 - Good News: massive world-wide protests demanding action on climate change

Good News: massive world-wide protests demanding action on climate change

There is also Good News on another front.

Sunday, September 21, saw the largest mobilization against climate change in the history of the planet. It was called the People’s Climate March and hundreds of thousands of people of all ages, classes, and genders turned out in over 2600 events in 162 countries.

All told, it's estimated that over 570,000 people - nearly 600,000 people - took part in the day, ranging from a handful in Aleppo, Syria to 30,000 in Melbourne to 40,000 in London to the biggest of all, at least 310,000 and maybe as many as 400,000 in New York City.

The crowds in New York were so massive, three to four times what organizers expected, that the march spread out over four miles. So many came that at 5pm organizers had to send a text message asking marchers to leave because the route allowed for the march had filled to capacity.

In New York, there were marchers from around the world, including China, India, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Turkey, South Africa, and the Philippines, joining with folks who came in 550 buses from all over the US to demand that political and economic leaders take action against climate change before it is too late.

More directly, the marches, rallies, and protests are intended as a message to the leaders of the 120 nations gathered for a UN climate summit that began two days later on Sept. 23: We expect action and we expect it now. Not someday. Now.

The day after the march, September 22, thousands took part in an action called Flood Wall Street, a massive sit-in to take the climate crisis to the home of one of its biggest causes: financial greed. The idea was to confront the mavens of the Financial District with the possibility that rising sea levels could flood Lower Manhattan - that climate change affects them, too.

This march and rally were without a permit, so it was civil disobedience. But unlike the Occupy Wall Street protests that began three years ago this past week, the NYPD acted with surprising restraint and the sit-in, which blocked street traffic in lower Manhattan, continued for some hours. The only confrontations and the only arrests occurred when protesters tried to force their way past metal barricades which had been set up by police to block off Wall Street itself - because after all, golly gee whiz, those people can't be inconvenienced.

New York
As always, there were the dissenting voices on the effort, those who dismiss marches and protests, including this one, and I don't mean dismiss it from the right but from the left, dismissed both by the kewl kidz who sneer at anything so "old school" as actually doing things in public, on the streets, and regard tweets and Facebook posts as the epitome of social action and voting for Democrats as the highest political calling and the sui dissant radicals whose main purpose in life seems to be looking for ways to declare themselves "more radical than thou" and whose main talent seems to be either flaming out in an orgy of rock-throwing nihilism or burning out in fuming desperation.

Now, let me be clear, I'm not trying one of those "I don't like either side so I must be right" deals. Overall, I agree with the analysis, the political and social analysis, of the radicals, but if you say something like this march, the over half-million people in the streets across the world is, as one called it, a "farce" because the message is not radical enough, not sufficiently anti-capitalist, did not involve enough physical aggression, did not produce enough arrests, if you say that's a "farce," I say you're an idiot who has no conception of how social and political change occur.

Because everything matters. Everything is a contribution. This as much as anything and more than a lot.

Flood Wall Street
Because marches and rallies, even if they do not achieve their ends immediately, which they never do, even if there is some disagreement on the means to achieve those goals - for a good example, there were people in the march in New York supporting nuclear power as the best way to deal with global warming with others saying that's a terrible way to deal with global warming (which it is) - even if the message should be sharper and more radical, still such actions do one thing superbly well: They let everyone involved know that they are not alone. As Michael Brune of the Sierra Club wrote, "After this week, no one ever needs to feel alone in this fight."

And there is little that is more disheartening than thinking you are the only one and nothing more encouraging - dare I use cliche "empowering" - than knowing that you are not.

And when they are large, especially this large, and this well organized, they do one other thing extremely well: They get attention. They get the message, the broad message, out, that message this time being that climate change, the global warming, is a worldwide threat to humanity:, which was the main organizer of the event, compiled over 5200 articles written about the action. TV news, of course, failed again for the most part, as it usually does in cases like this, but the fact, the undeniable fact, is that climate change was made a public issue in a way it has not been for some time. For at least a day, it even pushed ISIS off the front page. And that took some doing.

All in all, it was a brilliant, exciting, invigorating event that sends a message that political leaders ignore at their peril: Action. Now.

And that's good news.

Sources cited in links:

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