Saturday, September 20, 2014

Before: Rochesterians going to the People’s Climate March in NYC


CCBeforeSMany folks who live in the Rochester, NY region are preparing to arrive at the largest climate march in history—the People’s Climate March. I view this march as an attempt to capture the media’s attention and demonstrate how important it is to our leaders and fellow human beings that the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris must not fail. Other climate talks, especially 2009 in Copenhagen, failed miserably and this leads some to conclude that climate talks—worldwide binding agreements to keep greenhouse gas emission down and do so fairly—are not the answer. But climate talks are the only answer to a worldwide crisis that involves all people, all governments, all corporations, all animals, all plants, and our life support system. Just recently, ‘experts’ realized that our population growth assumptions were off by about 2 billion people. This makes 12 billion folks who by 2100 will have to eat, earn a living, and adapt to a warmer world. We still don’t fully understand all the ramifications of this aspect of the looming disaster.

One thing is for sure, absolutely nothing but a successful climate conference in Paris 2015 can adequately address Climate Change. Without the force of law throughout the world on mitigating Climate Change within a level playing field soon, we’ll be left to the forces of the invisible hand and voluntary efforts. The invisible hand, free market fundamentalism, allowing the market to supplant our moral system, is too selfish and heedless to anything but its own inhuman survival. Voluntary efforts, heroic though they may be, will not be comprehensive and rapid enough to address a problem that has grown exponentially because we’ve let it go for a very long time.

Will the People’s Climate March work? Many obviously don’t think so or they’d be going. I do not know if the People’s Climate March will get people’s attention to the most important crisis of our age. Many who are going to the march are going because of a deep, visceral urge to do something about the complacency they see in their neighbors, powerful corporations, and their governments. Some are going because they’re hoping hundreds of thousands of people marching around New York City on a Sunday afternoon might capture the media’s attention and give Climate Change the top priority it deserves. For those who think they just have to ignore this one because their plate is full, this is not one of those kinds of issues. You will have to adapt to Climate Change, just as you would have to respond to any immediate disaster.

Some are going because they hope. They hope this march will change everything. (A full discussion of this need for a complete change is probably best developed by Naomi Klein in her just-released book.

Naomi Klein: Only a Reverse Shock Doctrine Can Save Our Climate In her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein argues that if we had taken action years ago when scientists first established that human activities were changing our climate, we might have been able to deal with the problem of global warming with only minimal disruption to our economic system. But as we approach a tipping point, and the consequences of climate change come into sharper focus, that time has passed, and we now have to acknowledge that preserving humans’ habitat requires a paradigm change. But Klein doesn’t just offer us a depressing litany of the damage we’ve already done. She calls on us to seriously rethink the way our economy is structured to address not only climate change, but also other longstanding social problems like persistent global poverty and rising inequality. (September 16, 2014) Moyers and Company

The People’s Climate March is not an attempt to defend science, which many who speak to the media about this issue tend to find themselves doing. (It’s like having to explain gravity every time a reporter asks a passerby why some poor soul just jumped from a tall building.) The media, still in its infancy on messaging Climate Change, still wants to give denial a chance, and appease those who might find this subject too alarming and dreadful. So, we still have to march and make a lot of noise to grab the media’s attention because the media cannot get their heads around the all-inclusiveness of this issue.

The science of Climate Change can speak for itself, as it has in many climate studies around the world. The People’s Climate March is about reaching the public at a gut level (beyond politics and the will not to believe) and getting them to demand that their media and their leaders get moving.

Before this march, we still can hope. I find myself, someone who has seen almost no local action on Climate Change, hoping for a new day on climate responsibility when I return. A day where we wake up to the world we are really living in, a warmer world that is quickly getting warmer and a community ready to get their hands dirty. Before this march, I wonder if the local media will find it in their hearts to cover this issue after a great jolt of adrenaline from New York City. I wonder whether the public will continue to only muse about Climate Change, if they think about it all, or might instead become engaged with the issue of their generation. I wonder, as a soldier might before a great war, if all the planning and inconvenience of getting to and experiencing a great human movement whether it will be worth it all. But this last question will be answered after the march, not before it.

I acknowledge that many are working towards a sustainable future, doing their part and all that. But we must ask ourselves, is what we are doing going to make a difference? If our actions don’t address the immediate problem of lowering greenhouse gases on a planetary scale, it’s not enough. Unlike many of the great issues, where we won’t know the outcome of our actions, the need to lower GHGs is clear. We cannot dodge this one with rationalizations.

After the march, after the dust settles as it were, I’ll be back with my observations.

BTW: If you really cannot make the march, check this out: “5 Ways to Support the People's Climate March Without Marching” (9/18 The Huffington Post)

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