On Sept. 21, an estimated crowd of 100,000 people will flood the streets of Midtown Manhattan to march together on a single issue: climate change. The People’s Climate March, taking place two days before the UN’s global summit on climate, is the culmination of 6 months of planning and outreach by a growing coalition, ranging from labor unions to racial justice and indigenous organizations to tried-and-true environmental groups.
The march, while aligning with traditional methods of direct action, will nonetheless send a message to leaders attending the UN summit that climate change affects and is affected by a diverse range of issues. From historic storms displacing countless families to the amount of money pouring into elections from rich donors, climate change plays a significant role.
Take Hurricane Katrina’s devastating effect on the Gulf Coast. Katrina not only destroyed an estimated $108 billion in property, but also did immeasurable damage to coastal communities. The storm displaced 400,000 people, one of which was my brother-in-law’s family. He moved out of his mother’s FEMA cottage at 16 because they simply didn’t have room to house all of their family members. His mother still lives in that same FEMA cottage almost a decade later because her family doesn’t have the means to move.
My own family was separated for a number of months as my father relocated to the Florida panhandle for work and commuted to Mississippi every weekend to see us while my sister and I finished out the school year, all because the Air Force base in Biloxi, the largest employer in the area, was left in shambles after the storm.
Katrina uprooted so many lives, and the Gulf Coast has been slowly inching towards a full economic recovery for almost 10 years. All of this was caused by a particularly intense storm, part of a trend where the average intensity of tropical storms has increased globally since the 1950’s, a contributing factor being the rise in average sea temperature. While that doesn’t necessarily mean climate change directly caused Hurricane Katrina, it has laid a foundation where storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, storms that devastate entire communities, are more likely to occur.
One of the reasons climate change is a major political concern at all is because of its potentially catastrophic impact on human life. That's why Congress must take immediate action on curbing climate change by enacting strong environmental regulations for the energy industry.
But an army of right wing anti-climate groups are actively working against reforms with the support of corporate donors. By 2010, Donors Trust, a right-wing funding channel, distributed $118 million to 102 think tanks and action groups whose stances are decidedly anti-climate change. And it’s not only anti-climate groups who benefit from such large donations. Since 2008, businesses have donated more than $640 million to 160 members of Congress who have consistently rejected climate change. Some of these businesses include Google, Ford, UPS, and eBay.
In the fight against climate change, the opposition has money to burn. But the People’s Climate March is a huge step towards leveling the playing field.
The march is a moment where those at the frontlines of climate change, whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by its effects, and those who have built solutions around broader issues of money in politics and economic security can march in solidarity together. As the oft-quoted Audre Lorde said, there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we don’t live single-issue lives. This means connecting the issues we care about in substantial ways, and the People’s Climate March is a perfect platform for doing just that.