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I tell my friends, excitedly, that I went to the Climate March and got to see the whole thing,
"You watched?", they ask, disappointed. "Why weren't you in it?" Well, I was, or at least I felt like I was a part of it. Standing next to the stream of humanity passing by, I could look into people's faces, read the banners, hear the chants, feel the exhilarating rhythm of the occasional band, absorb a full sense of the march's size and variety. Early on, some people in the march were calling urgently to us on the sidelines to join in. "Don't watch. Join!", a banner read. Here I've been writing about climate change for years, squeezing carbon energy out of our lives, and at the biggest climate rally ever, they thought I was one of those standing "on the sidelines."
The march did not lack for participants. The turnout was so massive that when time ran out they still had many blocks worth of people waiting at the beginning of the route.
There was, though, one magnificent moment that our late arrival caused us to miss.
When the march again began moving forward, it came by us led by one of those big, black SUVs with tinted windows.
But from there on, it was all walking humanity, stripped of the star-crossed machines that serve our present needs while invisibly altering the planet upon which life ultimately depends.
That's one of the greatest challenges of conveying the urgency of climate destabilization. Rather than making a mature acknowledgement that we are all part of the problem and all need to be part of the solution, rather than using today's magnificent animation capabilities to help people see where we're headed and motivate us to change our ways, American movie and video culture is instead churning out epic battles between good and evil, reveling in the drama of future ruin.
black balloons to aid visualization of CO2. "Keep it in the ground", her sign says. It's okay, as far as it goes, but why, in this image-bathed culture, are the Masters of Imagery not doing more to help this woman help us visualize the invisible?
food justice eclipsed the dominance of DESTINY.
Next to the "Destiny" billboard was an even larger and equally relevant sign boldly stating "The curve changes everything."
I also see someone I know poking her head out in the upper right corner. Hi, Liz! What are the chances of unknowingly photographing a familiar face among tens of thousands of marchers?
"Stop fueling around."
"Men argue, Nature acts."
"Everyone's planet, everyone's problem."
"Oh shoot, we left the oven on."
"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the pollution."
"Care now, you might be coming back."
Or, stated simply, stripped of rhyme and wit: "It's time to cut carbon"
My favorite chant, heard several times during the march, was "HEY! oBAma! WE DON'T WANT no CLImate DRAma!"
On the other end of life's story, there was a gang of "Elders off their rockers."
These speak to all the climatological and ecological services that form the foundation for a healthy economy.
"Live on nature's income, not its capital.", was getting at something similar.
"Green capitalism can't save us.", said one placard. More emphatic was the chant: "The PROBlem is the PROFit, and WE are GOING to STOP it!"
A few anti-war riffs:
"No more fake wars."
"Climate change leads to war, war leads to climate change."
and, in an update of swords to plowshares,
"Windmills, not weapons"
Or, "We're going to BEAT...BACK...CLImate CHANGE, we're going to BEAT BEAT BACK BACK CLImate CHANGE!"
Or "What do we want? CLIMATE JUSTICE. When do we want it? NOW!"
Fossil free MIT
Fossil free NYC
By the way, there's a letter to the editor that makes a post-Climate March call to look at our portfolios with divestment in mind. It links to sustainableinvesting4all.com, which looks promising.
Some signs spoke specifically to the predicament of NY City. There was considerable dismay directed at Fresh Direct, whose delivery trucks have been fouling the air in some neighborhoods.
FRESH DirECT has GOT to GO, hey HO.
And something more general: "Rising tides, rising rents, rising people."
"Coal, gas, and oil. Leave it in the soil." managed to turn this into a rhyme.
During one lull in the march, early on, an attractive woman, playing the cheerleader, held a sign high while she jumped up and down, looking expectantly at all of us lining the street. She wanted us to cheer, but her sign was very complex and impossible to read with all the bouncing. We were ready to cheer, but didn't know quite for what.
"Turn up the hope, not the heat."
"Think outside the barrel."
and the endearing "It's not too oily to go solar."
In the Do It Yourself category:
"You control climate change"
"Cook organic, not the planet."
and the simple assertion: "Lawns are dumb."
When I saw "Support hemp for a clean planet.", I called out HEMP!, with raised fist. The signholder returned the cheer in kind. You'd cheer for industrial hemp, too, if you'd seen the documentary "Bringing It Home."
Just to spread the love, I also shouted out "PUPPIES!" when a woman walked by with an "I'm marching for puppies" sign.
I tried to make some calculations, roughly having counted 300 people passing by per minute. Times 240 minutes, that doesn't exactly equal the 310,000 figure being used, but with the roughness of my count, all of those who didn't make it to 42nd Street, all those told to disperse when time ran out, and all those on the sidewalks, it could add up.
If you've made it this far, you've experienced something of the sprawling immensity and diversity of the march. I leave you with two parting posters: