CHICAGO – With everyone aboard the People’s Climate Train, bound for the Sept. 21 People’s Climate March in New York City, it was time for activists to begin voicing opinions and exchanging ideas. From marching tactics to environment workshops, people prepared for the upcoming mass event, both mentally and strategically.
Hilary Colby, one of the Chicagoans who boarded the train, underscored what seemed to be the basic driving motivator for everyone who would be marching: “I have to do something,” she said. “What else can I do? I want to find a way to be heard. It’s hard, in your daily life, to divest yourself; to get away from the anti-environmental media and to be able to participate” in these kinds of actions. She said she felt fortunate to be able to take part, adding, “People my age are trying to hold a job. Not everyone is blessed with the time to do this.” On the other hand, she admitted, “If you go back and look at the Keystone XL protests, almost everybody was over the age of 50, so it’s great that the Climate March is going to be more diverse in terms of age groups.”
Hopes were also high that this march gets people to wake up, and recognize the dangers of a changing climate as being a reality – one that is intricately connected to everything else. For one, said Colby, fighting for the climate can provide ample job opportunities. She remarked, “A friend of mine does solar installation, and that there is a great example. The amount of opportunity there is for job growth in the area of renewable energy is incredible.” Noting that there will, in fact, be an entire section of the event focused on labor, she added, “The march organizers really were strategic in creating specific groupings to focus on different issues. And if we get the numbers we’re expecting at this, and if news channels pick this up, it’ll be an eye opener, for sure. I’m excited, and I want even more people to get engaged in this fight.”
Joan Schwimmer, also from Chicago, said that she hoped the feeling of optimism this event is sure to capture will stay with her after it’s finished. “Normally, I’m hopeful when I’m at these actions, but when I’m elsewhere, I just wonder why people don’t get it. Even the extreme weather events you hear about are happening because of climate change, and people just don’t make the connection. But it affects everyone, and I want the public to become more aware of what’s going on.”
Also aboard the train was Christopher Cook from San Francisco, author of Diet for a Dead Planet, a book detailing how big aggro-business negatively affects food and the climate. “Even our food is connected to climate change,” he said. “The way our food is processed has it producing over a fifth of all climate changing emissions. Concentrated industrial agriculture areas are producing phenomenal levels of methane and other toxic greenhouse gases. Furthermore, deforestation is often required to create many mass crop plantations. This removal of trees further depletes the Earth’s way of naturally restoring itself.” It’s another aspect of the overall problem that he hoped the march would address. “This is an industrial model designed around the interests of large corporations, at our expense. It’s not a sustainable system for humanity.”
If nothing else, everyone agreed that this march would be empowering and motivational, and that it would send a clear message to mega corporations, people ignorant to the threat of global warming, and right-wing climate change deniers alike. “This march,” said Colby, “is about actively making a choice to put yourself on the front lines – to let citizens, corporations, and government know what you think, what you want, and how you feel.”
“Before we can effectively change anything else, we have to change the damage we’re doing to this planet right now,” said Schwimmer. “Because if we don’t get this right, it won’t matter if we get anything else right.”
Photo: Roberta Wood/PW