By Barbara Alsop, First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, VT
If you haven’t seen the news yet, we had a Climate March in New York City today (said advisedly since I started typing before midnight but it is now the next day). The counts vary between the NY Times’ 310,000 and the organizers’ guess of 400,000. I’m not going to quibble over details. The bottom line is that a heck of a lot of people showed up for the march, including 70 from my UU Society. That represents almost a quarter of our regularly appearing congregation, and it also represents the incredible generosity of the members who could not go.
Thirty of us received partial or complete scholarships for the March. Think about that for a minute. People who could not go for one of many reasons donated enough money to make it possible for thirty people, who could not otherwise go, to participate in the biggest demonstration on the climate ever. We had a great time on the bus ride down, singing and enjoying ourselves. The mood back was more contemplative. We were thinking of ways to continue the energy and drive of this day into the future.
We had celebrities among us, including Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, and our own senator Bernie Sanders. Emma Thompson appeared at our sister march in London. We had Al Gore, Sheldon Whitehouse, senator from Rhode Island, and Chuck Shumer senator from New York. Leonardo diCaprio was there as were Bill McKibben (fellow Vermonter) and Jane Goodall. More important were the hundreds of thousands of everyday citizens and visitors who came to carry the torch for Mother Earth.
There were some wonderful costumes and contraptions, there were banners that stretched across the broad streets, there were cheers and chants. There were sore feet and legs, from hours standing waiting for the march to start. The march was so long that people were still marching the last mile or more while our bus full of thrilled and enlivened Vermonters headed under them in the Lincoln Tunnel on our long ride back home to Burlington.
I must note that my group waited along with more than a few thousand others in the Interfaith Area, where we listened to pastors from a number of religions speak on the subject of the climate and its effects on the poor and underserved island nations, our own cities and coastlines, the whole world with future economic disaster, and many other issues. Some led us in song, and thousands of voices rose together in a number of well known and lesser known works. We stood in the same place for over three hours before we started to move. The organizers simply had not expected such a large turnout.
We were four miles long on a two and a half mile course. The first were finishing before the last had started. The turnout was massive, but so was the audience. We went by areas that had spectators five and six deep at the barricades. We had hearty souls in Central Park on some of the rocks overlooking the route. I saw only two people who did not support us, one with a very badly worded and spelled sign that took me several minutes to decipher, and one who was enjoying harassing people as they walked by. There may have been others but they did not impinge on my joy and solidarity with those who cared as much as I that the treaty conference this coming week resolves the most important issue of our day.
We have committed to continuing the fight for action on climate change. We brainstormed a little on the way home, and shared what we had learned. I had been given by my host family a recent article from the NY Times by Paul Krugman that showed that climate legislation will actually improve the U.S. economy, based on a study by the IMF. I passed that on for scanning and proliferating. It is great information for selling the need for and benefit of climate protective legislation.
This blog post originally appeared on BHALSOP.wordpress.com.