On September 21, an estimated 311,000 people descended on the streets of New York City, marching with a message of alarm for world leaders to start taking action on climate change.
Though everyone from Sting to Al Gore to Leonardo DiCaprio were among the brighter beacons of the environmental movement who attended, the event was rooted in the thousands of ordinary people dedicated to changing the course of history by averting climate crises. It was the largest climate-oriented walk ever.
One demonstrator was asked why she attended.
"I'm here because I really feel that every major social movement in this country has come when people get together," Carol Sutton of Norwalk, Connecticut, the president of a teachers' union, told The New York Times. "It begins in the streets."
Many have been frustrated with the international inaction on global warming. Ilchi Lee, a long-time advocate of a peaceful, sustainable world, recognizes that maintaining the earth's environmental balance is a not a single country's dilemma or a partisan problem, it is a human issue.
The legions cruised through the heart of Manhattan to Times Square and the Far West Side. But as big as the single event was, it was not alone. Demonstrations took place across the globe, from Paris to Papua New Guinea. More than 150 countries joined the protests. The walks were in preparation of the United Nations Summit Meeting on climate change that took place two days afterward.
One of the main organizers of the event, the international advocacy group Avaaz, presented a petition with more than 2.1 million signatures demanding action on climate change.
"It's a testament to how powerful this movement is," Ricken Patel, executive director of Avaaz, told The New York Times. "People are coming in amazing numbers."
What We Learned From the People's Climate March
- Many people are passionate about taking action on climate change.
- It's not too late to do something about climate change.
- Climate change is indiscriminate; it impacts everyone, all citizens of the world.
United Nation's Climate Summit
About 120 world leaders convened in New York City for the United Nation's Climate Summit to discuss climate change. It was the first such meeting in five years. Speakers included President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Nelson Mandela's widow, Graça Machel, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
So, what was accomplished at the Summit?
A total of 73 countries and more than 1,000 business, including Norwegian oil company Statoil, signed a World Bank initiative to encourage governments to set a price on carbon. At the summit, 25 of those companies, including Philips and Unilever, committed to pricing carbon internally and boost their efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Establishing a carbon tax is essential because it penalizes wasteful companies that continue to add harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.
The summit also debuted the rollout of the New York Declaration on Forests, which proposes cutting the rate of natural forest loss by 50 percent by 2020 and eliminating it altogether by 2030.
Dozens of city mayors were at the conference and planned to cut emissions at the local level. A new study from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group found that by 2050, cities could cut their annual emissions by an amount equivalent to half of yearly global coal use.
In the upcoming weeks and months, those who marched in N.Y.C. and others around the world will see what comes of the U.N.'s Climate Summit.