By Bruce Parker | Watchdog.org
NEW YORK – Indian tribes, environmental activists, vegans, union members, communists and circus freaks united in Manhattan Sunday to protest fossil fuels and warn of imminent climate catastrophe ahead of Tuesday’s United Nations climate summit.
Billed as the largest climate march in history, the People’s Climate March showcased the protest power and pageantry of more than 1,500 environmentalist groups from around the world, including Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Earthjustice, SEIU, 350.org and more. An estimated 400,000 people attended the event.
Demonstrators gathered at Central Park West at 11:30 a.m. before making their way down Avenue of the Americas, crossing over to 11th Avenue, and marching down to West 34th Street, where trumpet blasts, drum beats and chants finally dissipated.
The march served as a pregame show for Tuesday’s climate change summit led by Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations, U.S. President Barack Obama and 126 heads of state. The leaders will outline a plan for a new international climate agreement to be ratified in Paris in 2015.
Notable no-shows of the United Nations climate summit include Chinese president Xi Jinping, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
While well-known politicians, celebrities and environmentalists attended Sunday’s march, it was members of the Indigenous Environmental Network who stole the show. Wearing traditional dress, dozens of tribal members offered visual spectacle, shamanistic energy and climate dances to appease Mother Earth.
They also set the stage for a wild afternoon of anti-capitalist theater.
“A lot of our communities tend to be on the front lines – we tend to be the ones living off the land. So when the land gets spoiled and degraded, it affects our health and spirit. So it’s essential that we are here at the People’s Climate March, to be at the forefront and make our voices heard,” Dallas Goldtooth, representative of the Indigenous Environmental Network and a member of the sketch comedy group The 1491s, told Watchdog.org.
Goldtooth was among hundreds of tribal members headlining the parade and calling for justice for the earth.
“I’m here because there’s too much damage being done to the earth, the water and the environment. I’m concerned because I have grandchildren,” said Jake Black Bear, a senior member of the Navajo Nation.
Environmentalist leaders and activists were also on hand saying nations will have to make big changes to their energy, food and water habits if the planet is to be spared from imminent climate doom.
Pointing to 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, Emma Ruby-Sachs, campaign director at Avaaz.org, a global advocacy organization with 16 million members worldwide, offered a warning aligned with Tuesday’s global climate summit agenda.
“The Sandy storm is going to become regular. This is not just a green issue, it’s an everybody issue,” Ruby-Sachs told Watchdog.org
“We’re looking at a six-degree rise in temperature if we do nothing. We know that’s going to mean storms, droughts, lack of food and maybe the end of humanity as we know it. That’s what really sober scientists are saying,” she said.
Ruby-Sachs compared the situation to the Ice Age, which she said devastated Europe with just an eight-degree global temperature drop.
“If we act now to move to 100 percent clean energy, we can keep the planet under two degrees, and we can stop this apocalyptic future from happening,” she said.
But Bob Linden, a nationally syndicated radio host, said it was too late for political solutions. The only hope now, the host of Go Vegan Radio said, is for the world to stop eating meat.
“If you want another super storm, keep eating meat, dairy, fish and eggs. You can’t be a meat-eating environmentalist. You must go vegan,” Linden said.
According to the animal-rights activist, animal agriculture is responsible for deforestation, soil erosion, habitat destruction, resource depletion and drought. Thus, meat-eating environmentalists are a major cause of climate change.
Linden added that governments are helpless to prevent the disaster imagined by climate justice advocates.
“Don’t depend on politicians and governments – they’ll never make the right changes. Don’t defend our new energy infrastructure – that’ll take 20 years and at least $35 trillion. We don’t have the time or the money. However, if 50 to 85 percent of us switch to veganism by 2020, scientists tell us we can save the planet from climate change.”
Global political leaders at Tuesday’s meeting will propose an agenda that limits the world to a less than two-degree Celsius rise in global temperature. According to the United Nations climate summit website, the goal will be reached by restructuring the global economy and eradicating poverty through solutions related to agriculture, cities, forests, energy and transportation.
But Bill McKibben, chief organizer of the People’s Climate March and founder of the anti-carbon group 350.org, told Watchdog.org the best thing politicians, cities, and institutions could do to stop climate disaster is pull investments out of oil and gas companies en masse. Collective global divestment from traditional energy sources is a top-level agenda backed by McKibben and 350.
When asked what states might do to address climate change, McKibben replied, “They could divest their pension funds of holdings in fossil fuel companies. (Vermont Gov.) Peter Shumlin became the first governor to endorse the idea earlier this week. It makes no sense to invest in the companies that drive the crisis.”
Contact Bruce Parker at [email protected]