Are the American people aware of climate change? Do they think it’s a serious issue?
This weekend, the answer all around the country was a resounding “Yes!” It was heard from coast to coast at the People’s Climate March, which is being called the biggest climate action in history.
Could this signal a turning point in the fight against climate change?
According to the march organizers, which included 350.org and international advocacy group Avaaz, over 2,000 climate-focused events took place yesterday in 162 countries. Celebrities of all kinds joined in — but mostly, this march was about ordinary people, both Americans and around the world, who are concerned about climate change.
Over 400,000 people descended on New York City, the center of Sunday’s march. That’s four times as many as had been expected. Some reports even set the number as high as 600,000 — but whatever the exact number, we can all agree that it was BIG.
This video from the New York Times highlights the diversity and passion of the marchers in New York:
It seemed that everyone was in New York, at the mother of all the marches: Al Gore (of course), Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials, Jane Goodall. 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune were also on hand. Among others with the Solutions Project were Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, and our favorite vegan hippie chick with a race car, Leilani Münter. The marchers were lighting up Twitter all day:
Even U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon marched. The march was timed to precede this Tuesday’s Climate Change Summit at the U.N., with leaders representing 125 nations, among them President Barack Obama. The goal is an international climate change accord, to take effect in 2020.
How did the movement get so big? This climate action didn’t come out of the blue. In recent years, climate change has become more real for the American people. They’ve been joined by institutions like the security establishment and even some of the financial world. Even coal companies have admitted climate change is real and taken steps to mitigate the severe weather they realize they themselves are contributing to.
But as economist Lord Nicholas Stern notes in this TED talk, although we have the means to deal with the problem, we aren’t moving fast enough:
Secretary of State John Kerry seems to agree. As quoted in the LA Times, he told the Major Economies Forum, “We all know exactly what it takes to get the job done. The solution is energy policy … every one of our countries has the technology to do this. It’s about getting the political will to make the decisions.”
Will the political will follow? Politico noted some optimism on this count: billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, for one, believes this action on the part of the people shows that climate change is “a first-tier political issue, that the ability to sweep this under the rug is over.” Bill McKibben of 350.org adds, “You don’t get to be president of the United States by ignoring huge outpourings of public sentiment.” This comes on the heels of Obama announcing major actions on solar and energy efficiency, so perhaps the mood in his corner of Washington, anyway, is receptive.
We know that solar can be a big part of the solution for climate change — one that empowers the average person to make a difference.
And this march was about the average person. It’s great that the celebrities were out in force. Even greater is the vast numbers of people who went to the effort to make a statement. Just as their voices can’t be stopped, the solar revolution can’t be stopped. Will you be part of it?
Source for non-Twitter images: People’s Climate March