September 26, 2014
In a march as historic in its own way as the civil rights and peace marches of the 1960s, 400,000 people converged in New York City for the People’s Climate March, September 21st.
More than 80 Cape Codders from Mashpee to Provincetown boarded buses at Harwich and Barnstable. Others, like candidate for state senate Matt Patrick, came on their own.
Leaving at 4:30 a.m., driving from dark to dawn seemed a metaphor for possibility. The destroyer moored in the waters in Rhode Island, the smokestacks and industry quilted in between with fields and forests, contrasted consumption and war with a sustainable, peaceful world.
Our reasons for marching were largely for a better future, to pressure the political system and to create awareness.
Many were longtime activists, 60s idealists like me. On the bus, this paper’s own Richard Elrick, energy professional, said, “We’re not getting where we need to get fast enough.” But he encouraged, “Politicians react when people demand that they react.”
Nina Tepper of Hyannis Port said, “I’ve always held the belief that we are one planet. I want to lend my voice as I work for connecting issues of peace, justice, the environment, balance in the world. I want to be energized by like-minded people.”
With us were more than 20 teenagers from Martha’s Vineyard and Sturgis School, Hyannis. Sturgis’ Anapurl Feldman, 18, said her of motive for marching: “Climate change is the eminent issue which has consequences, and we all have an effect by the things we do. If we don’t take action now, it will be harder to change things in the future.” Joel Hitchens, 17, said, “The UN lately has been shifting towards caring, and this is one more thing which could make them want to make change.”
When assembled, I felt safe with Capedownwinders carrying huge black and yellow banners for our assigned section of “Nuke Free, Carbon Free” along with “No More Fukushimas,” at 73rd St. and Central Park West in front of some of Manhattan’s swankiest art deco buildings, overlooking the park’s trees. Marchers would walk from 86th to 34th streets.
As a helicopter kept passing overhead, we waited, as rumor had it organizers had to turn away people because the march capacity was full.
At 11:58 there was a moment of silence. At noon we sounded an Alarm for the Planet with noise makers, kazoos, drums, horns, tambourines, our voices.
Excitement mounted, dancing to two rocking brass jazz bands with folks from Minnesota to Michigan, St. Louis to Indian country, dressed in regalia, in Tyvek against “radiation,” wearing tees, like “Greenpeace, Forest Crimes Unit” or “Don’t Destroy This!”– carrying colorful signs: “The Earth is Singing her Revolution,” “Fight Unregulated Greed,” “Don’t Frack with Us,” and “Capitalism has no solution for climate change.” A Cape IFAW volunteer carried “Jobs Justice Clean Energy.” A Wellfleetian held “How Stupid Are We?” as an African-American contingent passed us chanting: “O-Bam-A you talk the talk, now walk the walk.”
There were hula hoop dancers, a dinosaur, a gorilla: King Cong (coal, oil, nukes, gas), a big balloon of earth. Two Cape WILPF members wrapped themselves in the NASA flag of earth from space.
Then all ages, toddlers to 70-plus walked — disparate races unified by kind faces, beaming with love for earth and mankind, everyone polite and peaceful. Even the cops smiled. Spontaneous shrieks of delight went up as we passed crowds of well-wishers on the sidelines. On one skyscraper a screen streamed rallies in 166 countries.
Toward 4 PM, the sections containing indigenous, immigrant and farming communities hit hard by a lack of environmental justice — labor, renewable energy, anti-fracking, tar sands, peace and justice activists — veterans, organizations seeking limits on corporate power such as Movetoamend, wildlife, health workers and faith communities, converged as the route ended.
Back on the bus, Marstons Mills resident Sigrid Mergenthaler, a new U.S. citizen said, “It was wild… I was completely overwhelmed. I was glad to see so many of us, because sometimes in our individual communities we are isolated. And often our government does not have our best interests in mind. It gives me hope.”
Amanda Leigh of Centerville said, “It was terrific to see so many different issues and causes, but at the same time with so many interests the question is, are they working on each specifically forward, or is there a single unifying cause? Either way, what do we do to go forward? End fossil fuel consumption or capitalism as we know it? What do we do tomorrow?”
Hyannis Port’s Billie Stewart, a Vietnam Vet: “A word for the march? Inspirational. Everyone always asks where are the youth? The youth were here!”