There is nothing quite so moving as the energy emanating from hundreds of thousands of people moving as one, arms linked, voices raised in fierce determination. On September 21, 2014 more than 400,000 people mobilized at the People’s Climate March in New York City, breaking the record for the largest climate demonstration in history and making an unprecedented statement on the need for immediate and transformative action on climate change. Across the world, more than 2,646 additional events were organized in 162 countries, bringing more that 50,000 people to the streets of London, 25,000 to the streets of Paris, 2,000 to the streets of New Delhi, and thousands more to the streets of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Burundi, to name but a few of the spectacular global actions.
On the ground at the NYC People’s Climate March, constituencies from all walks of life united as one, creating powerful alliances both within and across groups representing indigenous and frontline communities, women, families, scientists, labor, youth, farmers, politicians, animal rights defenders, divestment campaigners, elders, peace activists, multi faith groups and more. In order to highlight the disproportionate effects that the climate crisis is already having on some sectors, Indigenous and frontline communities lead the march, followed by women and youth.
In the cool morning mist, members and allies of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) gathered to march as part of the women’s contingent. Under the bright green banner reading ‘Women for Climate Justice’, a group of women (and men!) of diverse backgrounds and ages began to grow until our meeting spot on the corner of 68th and Central Park West became packed and overflowing with excitement. The women’s delegation was honored to have Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, former Finnish President Tarja Halonen, and climate ambassadors from across the globe amongst the hundreds of incredible women who mobilized with us.
Before beginning the march, WECAN International members and allies joined together in the street for the ‘Wall of Women’ action. Standing shoulder to shoulder, fists placed over the heart, the ‘climate women’ formed a line to represent their role as guardians of Mother Earth and their communities. On the sidelines taking photos, I was immediately struck by the beauty and power of this act of physical solidarity, which was echoed by international allies who submitted wonderful photos to our online photo gallery (wecaninternational.org/climate-march-2014-gallery).
As the march began to surge forward, a wave of cheers rolled through the crowd and hundreds of colorful banners and hand made signs were hoisted into the air. Chants of “Women. Climate. We want justice now,” rose around me, lead by mega-phone wielding WECAN International co-Founders, Sally Ranney and Osprey Orielle Lake and allies from the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO).
During the march, Executive Director Osprey Orielle Lake and members of the WECAN International team set off through the crowd to join Indigenous allies at the forefront of the march. There, in front of a beautiful paper-mache representation of Mother Earth, we caught up with Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Patricia and Nina Gualinga of Sarayaku Ecuador, Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Cree First Nation, Casey Camp Horneik of the Ponca Nation, and Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network, who derives her heritage from the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara peoples.
At the march to bring attention to the devastating impacts that extractivism and misconceived ‘development’ are having on their people’s culture and lands, it is these women who remind us everyday why we marched on September 21st, and more importantly, why this march is just the beginning.
As Naomi Klein states in her new book ‘This Changes Everything, Capitalism versus the Climate’,
“Climate change is not an ‘issue’ to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wake up call. A powerful message – spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions – telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing the planet. Telling us that we need to evolve.”
As we look forward from the historic People’s Climate March, we must remember these words and the stories of the indigenous women who live on the frontline everyday. The crisis unfolding around us demands that the People’s Climate March be but the first leap in our unrelenting mobilization for ecologic and social justice. We must do this, we will do this, WECAN do this.
View the full ‘WECAN International at the People’s Climate March’ photo album here.
Blog by Emily Arasim, WECAN International Special Projects & Communication Coordinator