We offer a few perspectives on the People’s Climate Train ride, the People’s Climate March in New York City September 2014, and the state of the climate movement. LISTEN to the latest WOMEN RISING RADIO program #26, Take a Ride on the People’s Climate Train, right here.
The recent Keystone XL Pipeline approval vote FAILED IN THE SENATE NOVEMBER 18, 2014. A HUGE VICTORY for climate activists. And one of those who worked hard for that victory is VALERIE LOVE, the No Tar Sands campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity. Valerie is the brain-mama of the People’s Climate Train, and she sent us a commentary on her experience with the train.
I hope that years from now we can look back at September 2014 as a turning point in the climate movement, a moment when people’s call for climate action grew so loud that our leaders could no longer ignore us.
It certainly felt that way as we traveled across the country on the People’s Climate Train in mid-September, en route to the People’s Climate March in New York City.
The Climate Train was one of the most powerful events I have participated in. More than 170 people joined us on the train, including nuns, ministers, tribal leaders, teachers, students, media activists and climate activists from around the country, and as far away as South America.
We boarded the Amtrak Zephyr in Emeryville, California on Sept. 15 and spent the next four days moving across the country, with whistle-stops in Reno, Denver and Chicago. Along the way, we held workshops, activist trainings and countless discussions about the best ways to tackle the climate crisis.
It was inspiring to spend the week with so many people focused on a singular goal from so many different perspectives and life experiences. Global leaders have failed to act for years and we understand that action will only be born out of a movement by the people. The climate crisis can be daunting and grim and we took these issues seriously….but the train was also a blast.
We arrived in New York City late on the Thursday night prior to the People’s Climate March in New York on Sunday, September 21. There we joined dozens of Center for Biological Diversity staff, activists and supporters in the largest march in climate movement history.
History was certainly in the air, and so was a palpable feeling that the time has finally come to deal with global warming, to begin making fossil fuels a thing of the past and embrace safer, saner energy policies that will leave a sustainable planet for future generations.
That, of course, starts with rejecting the dangerous mentality that got us in this mess in the first place, the same mentality that pushes for more fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline, offshore oil and gas development and lax pollution rules on power plants.
We know we have a long way to go, but this fight is the fight of our age. The result will be a livable future for people and wildlife. After the climate train and march in September, it feels like we’re a step closer to making that happen.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK: Two perspectives on the PEOPLE’S CLIMATE TRAIN and the BIG CLIMATE MARCH
WOMEN RISING RADIO producer LYNN FEINERMAN and URBAN TILTH coordinator TERESA JIMENEZ reflect on their journey with the Climate Train and the Climate March.
PEOPLE’S POWER by Teresa Jimenez
On September 15th I took a train from California to New York City, but not just any ordinary train. It was the People’s Climate train. Over 150 people assembled to board the train at Emeryville’s Amtrak station, to become part of one of the largest climate change protests in her-story.
I rode the train with my friend and co-worker from Urban Tilth Sergio Solis, in connection with the Artisan Hub and other youth from various organizations in the Bay Area. Our group was composed of youth leaders of color who are actively working to better our communities.
Everyone in the train was eager to learn from one another. People started sharing their ideas, struggles, solutions and even making music together. The train ride was scheduled with momentum-building workshops at every hour. Sergio and I shared our personal story working in Richmond for a healthier food system through the work we do at Urban Tilth.
Urban Tilth emphasizes the need to empower youth and create leaders in the community. We spoke about how the Richmond refinery is polluting our community and affecting the health of residents. For it is the largest polluter in the area, and biggest top greenhouse gas emitter in the state of California.
More people joined the people’s climate train along the way. At the stops of Reno, Nevada and Denver, Colorado I was surprised to see crowds of people who rallied at the train station in support of the protest. It was beautiful to see a group of children outside who cheered us on. We took with us their positive energy, and some of their posters that made it all the way to New York.
Have I mentioned that it was my first time ever riding Amtrak, traveling across the country and going to New York City?! The countryside is simply beautiful. It showed us exactly what we are all fighting for, to preserve and respect the beauty of Mother Earth. To use the resources that she gives us, but to do so in a way that we do not exploit her. I value this trip so much because kids from urban cities hardly ever get the chance to travel outside of state. I am blessed to have gotten the opportunity to do so.
On September 18th we finally arrived in New York. Our group was welcomed by a local church. Throughout the following days, we participated in momentum-building activities like making art in preparation for the march. I was also able to visit different places in New York City. Times Square was everything I have seen on TV and more. I visited areas in which it was clear to me that gentrification was taking place. Which took me back to the same struggles that we are facing back home. I thought of the many people who are being displaced and pushed out of their communities.
New York, you are very impressive and beautiful, in many ways full of stories in every corner.
The day of the protest finally arrived. On September 21st we took to the streets of New York and marched. Making our voice heard as world leaders came to New York for a UN summit on the climate crisis. Along with my group I lined up in the front blocks of the march. Those front blocks in the march were reserved for indigenous people and people of color. Representing frontlines communities who are at the frontline of the climate crisis. I was grateful for this acknowledgement, for you cannot combat climate crisis if you ignore the racial environmental injustices.
I marched with over half a million people. The intensity and energy of the people was positively overwhelming. I almost lost my voice chanting and encouraging people to join our movement. One of the moments that I will never forget was when we stopped the march in order to take a moment of silence. For all the people who had lost their lives due to the climate crisis. New York was silent for two whole minutes. Yes, one of the busiest and congested cities stood in total silence in solidarity with us. Followed by a roar of noise that represented our resiliency, strength, and hunger for change.
Once I had arrived to the finish line of the protest I joined the people’s climate stage concert. Inspired by the music and poetry of young indigenous artists who use their music as a tool to educate and inspire others, my body danced to powerful lyrics that promoted freedom, justice and equality. Even after the concert was over there were still hundreds of people marching. It took several hours for the protest to end, due the massive amount of people that were present.
With over half a million people marching, people can no longer deny the fact that climate change is real. And that there are many of us who care. I could not wait to come home and tell my friends and family everything I had learned in this trip. Never forgetting that the key for collective change is to think globally but act locally.
On a local level I am grateful that even after Chevron spent over 3 million dollars on Richmond candidates that supported their greedy agenda, Chevron was not able to buy our votes. More progressive candidates won the election. On a national level I think it is a good start that the president of the US and the president of China both, pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. These are small victories, but we are yet to win the battle. Nevertheless, I am grateful that this trip to New York deepened my understanding on these issues and led me to meet amazing people. The climate march made my experience in New York much more powerful and meaningful.
TAKE IT TO THE MAT, NEW YORK, COME ON NOW! by Lynn Feinerman
I rode the People’s Climate Train to New York in September 2014, for the largest climate change protest in history. About 200 of us took over the AMTRAK California Zephyr, then the Chicago Lakeshore Limited into Manhattan. About half a million of us took to the streets Sunday September 21st, to send the world an urgent message.
It was an uneasy “homecoming” for me, to a place that has never felt like home, though I’ve been in New York many times.
I’d been there during the Vietnam era, in marches just as large, that literally stopped Wall Street and Madison Avenue. I visited New York in September of 2001, to screen a movie of mine at a festival… and stayed, perforce, for 9-11. I watched as crowds of people, likely close to half a million, tried to march up Central Park West to exit the city.
Can you fault my unease? I’ve almost never been in the city when there weren’t massive crowds of people marching somewhere. Business as usual has never been going on when I was there. I half wondered what might happen this time…
The sweating, anxious police attempting to control traffic while we marched, evoked the firefighters during 9-11. And I sensed the slowing down of the beating heart of New York, revealing a spiritual vulnerability I’d also seen during the tense, frenetic hours in September 2001.
The day of the big Climate March, we gathered around 80th and Central Park, proceeding to 34th and 11th. By invitation, I was with the Indigenous People and People of Color blocks, at the head of the massive procession. There has been a good deal of comment on the importance of that order in the march – with frontline communities, people of color and indigenous people leading the march. Their voices first.
Writers and climate activists like Naomi Klein have pointed to the significance of Indigenous People’s land rights claims. In her new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Klein presses the climate movement to help strengthen those claims, to support indigenous activists and activists of color, standing with them as we stood and marched together in New York this autumn.
I felt honored to be invited to join these two groups heading up the march. I felt the power of their outrage in New York, epitomized in one of their chants: “Can’t take it no more….can’t take it no more…can’t take it no more…can’t take it no more.”
We approached Times Square, and among the explosive advertising rippling across buildings there was a 40 foot screen exhibiting a short movie. It told a story of a young white girl and a young black guy coming together for a romance….all with the overt purpose of selling a line of clothing. The kids were making gestures that were, to my mind, suggestive to the point of maybe looking like soft porn…and I’m like, whoa, cheapen the idea of people of different races getting together, yeah, go on, that is so New York. Sell it, sell it, sell it to death.
And even that, as gigantic as it was, all over the huge wall of a skyscraper, seemed pathetic and small compared to the vastness of the march. A piddling little message to a powerful, angry and demanding crowd.
I thought to myself: What will it take truly to capture the beating, cynical heart of the global corporate giant gripping us all with the message of buy, consume, produce, burn, grow, more more more – what will it take, New York?
The acid reflux flooding the financial district from Superstorm Sandy stopped it in its rhythm only momentarily… hardly even caused a galloping pulse, let alone tachycardia… just as with 9-ll. What will it take?
It isn’t that I don’t admire you, New York. I do. And I know that New Yorkers love you fiercely. I recall a cartoon by R.O. Blechman in the September 14, 2001 issue of the New York Times, depicting a huge heart, with the twin towers inside of it.
And I’ve seen you bleed. But I don’t want you bleeding, I want you transformed, transfigured by a conscience that drives you to focus your gigantic energy on stopping climate chaos. Sell that. For real. Please.
Currently, we’ve seen President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announcing that they’re going to work on the problem of our time. Obama pledged to bring US carbon emissions down 26% – though not soon enough. Xi Jinping pledged to get China on track with limits on coal and other carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
The President acted presidentially, standing up and telling America that the Keystone XL Pipeline is not about anything that is really in the national interest. Hello.
Is this a breakthrough? Did they see the march, did they take the message to heart?
Or are they simply making “non-binding” gestures for public consumption (pun intended with regard to China, whose coal pollution poses a huge threat to Chinese health), and doing some dickering on the upcoming Transpacific Partnership face-off?
Is this just another photo op? Meanwhile, what are they doing with regard to the Transpacific Partnership agreement? This agreement, leaked almost in its entirety by the heroes at Wikileaks, is a multinational corporate power grab making NAFTA look like the New Deal. To wit:
This agreement legalizes the principle that if any corporation doesn’t like the environmental or humanitarian regulations placed upon it by any nation on Earth, that corporation can sue said nation – and its taxpayers – for what the corporation estimates are its lost profits.
In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein tells the story of Silfab Ontario, a visionary Canadian enterprise manufacturing solar panels that are judged best in class – with a competitive cost. Silfab started up with Ontario, Canada’s Green Energy and Green Economy act. Silfab was to be part of a feed-in tariff program, giving renewable power providers the option to sell power back to the grid. With this program, and provisions that companies like Silfab must hire local and buy local resources – Ontario became a Canadian hub of solar energy, and had closed all but one of its coal plants by 2013. And most crucial of all, Ontario alone had provided 31,000 jobs for the solar sector. Good jobs. Jobs that, for the most part, went to workers who’d been laid off from Chrysler and General Motors.
A strong success? Yes. So along come Japan and Europe to claim that they consider Ontario’s buy local and hire local approach to be in violation of World Trade Organization rules. And of course, the WTO rules against Canada.
What happened to Silfab? Its investors went away.
This has been happening worldwide, the US has sued other nations as well. Behind the national and international governmental masks are the multinational fossil fuel corporations. They seek to preserve the myth that it just isn’t possible to win with renewable energy.
They will have tools to keep a vise/vice grip (pun intended again) on the world – extorting vast sums from any nation that wants to transform itself to renewable energy and strengthen its own economy – with the legal carte blanche advanced in the Transpacific Partnership agreement.
Imagine what you could do, New York, if you wanted to take on this Transpacific Partnership agreement and stop it? With your advertising power, you’d take it to the mat in no time.
Please put your heart into that. Hear the cries of millions of marchers. Hear the Earth’s cry: “Can’t take it no more. Can’t take it no more….can’t take it no more…”
NAOMI KLEIN, author of the new book THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: Capitalism vs. the Climate – offered another perspective on the Big Climate March in New York: