By ELEANOR HEDGES DUROY, age 11
On September 21, 2014, a massive march brought together nearly half a million people in New York City, to put pressure on governments and corporations across the world to take action on climate change. The People’s Climate March took place just days before the United Nations Climate Summit. On the same day, activists in 150 countries participated in similar events designed to empower people to combat climate change around the world. “Today I march because I want to behold a brighter future,” a retired coal miner told reporters from the Huffington Post. “We have destroyed ourselves. We have destroyed our health, and I’m here because our political leaders have failed us.”
Scientists agree that the use of fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas contributes to global warming. The increase in the Earth’s average temperature is affecting the planet’s climate through rising sea levels, extreme droughts, flooding, hotter summers and colder winters. Activists are using a variety of methods to bring awareness to these changes and demand that governments act, including direct action, divestment and boycotts and nonviolent protest.
In 2013, climate activists Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara used their lobster boat to block a 40,000-ton shipment of coal from reaching a Massachusetts power station. Although they were not arrested for their action, they were charged with civil disobedience, but their case was dismissed. The district attorney sided with them, saying, “I do believe they’re right, that we’re at a crisis point with climate change.”
Activist groups like 350.org, one of the organizers of the People’s Climate March, advocate for divestment from large fossil fuel companies. Daniel K. Floyd, a member of the student-led divestment campaign at New York University says, “We believe in divestment because it is a powerful tool for preventing climate change… if every university were to divest, then a whole lot of money would be taken away from the businesses responsible for climate change.”
The group “Idle No More” has used peaceful teach-ins, flash-mob dances, hunger strikes, prayers and discussion to advocate for Indigenous people’s rights to self-determination and land and water protection. Formed by four women to oppose a Canadian bill which allows expansion of tar sands oil drilling on Native lands, Idle No More has become a powerful voice in the climate change debate.
“We know about climate change and that it’s already affecting many species and also our communities. We can’t live in a world that doesn’t have clean water and air,” says Idle No More co-founder, Sheelah McLean.
According to May Boeve of 350.org, the People’s Climate March was just the beginning of new movements and actions related to climate change. On the morning after the march, a group of activists tied to the Occupy movement staged a sit-in called “Flood Wall Street” in New York City’s financial center. The purpose of the action was to protest against the role of banks and corporations in aggravating (worsening) climate change.
As the marches in New York and around the world indicate, ordinary people are becoming increasingly more vocal about climate change. Flood Wall Street activist Zach Weinsteine doesn’t think the world can wait any longer to act: “The time for action was actually 25 years ago.”
Divestment: when a person or an organization owns a percentage of a company and decides to sell that portion. This way they are no longer financially supporting the company or benefitting from its profits.