Did you see the incredible photos of 4,000 people marching through New York City last week? If you didn’t then I suggest you take a moment to really take in how stunning those images are. Reportedly, the People’s Climate March in New York was the biggest march on climate change in history! At the same time there were smaller protests happening all over the world, and I joined the march in Edinburgh which saw around 3,000 people close down the busiest areas in the city centre – Princes Street, the Royal Mile and North Bridge (peacefully and pre-organised, of course!) It was a really fun day and I hope my pictures do justice to the sheer number of people that walked the street holding placards with glittery earths painted onto them, as well as the fun atmosphere.
The purpose of this march was to pressure the world leaders present at the Climate Summit in New York to take serious action against climate change. The summit in September was one of a series of negotiations – there will be follow up negotiations in Peru in December and in Paris in 2015. I expect there to be a lot more action surrounding the issue of climate change in the lead up to Paris next year. The biggest problem that I have with these marches is that no one has any demands. No one is suggesting exactly what they want the outcomes of the negotiations to be. The most specific aim of the people’s climate march that I have come across is to “demand action against climate change” but this is hugely open to interpretation. What are we expecting this action to look like? On the other hand, this vague sense of purpose is exactly why so many people turned up to show their solidarity. The less specific you can make your mission statement, the more people will agree with you. Both approaches have their benefits and their drawbacks and perhaps the media impact that the huge numbers of people have had justify the wishy-washy message. There’s also a really interesting article about the (potentially negative) corporate involvement in the climate march here.
I’m currently doing my MSc in Environmental Sustainability, so it’s fun to feel like I’m doing something about climate change and not just learning about it. I really feel like I’ve learnt a lot in these first few weeks of study. I’ve had a lot of my beliefs and assumptions challenged. I’ve realised both how new the problem of climate change is (the idea that humans could damage their environment on a global scale was only present in popular conscience in the 1950s!) and how old it is (the majority of the negative impacts that are happening to the planet we’ve known about since the 1970s, we just haven’t done anything about it.)
It was refreshing to see a lot of signs relating to social justice on the march. I think there is sometimes an assumption that people care either about the environment or society, but the two are inseparable. We as a society are a part of our environment. We literally depend on it for our lives. Therefore, if we destroy our environment we destroy the basis for society. It is also true that the poorest people on our planet suffer the worst from environmental degradation. They are the worst affected by climate change induced natural disasters such as flooding, droughts and an increasing number of tropical storms. Communities in the global south also depend more directly on the land for basic resources such as food and water and also for their livelihood. We should be concerned about climate change because we are concerned about people! There are of course people who think that the environment is intrinsically valuable (they are “deep ecologists“) and people who think that the environment has rights which take precedence over those of humans (they are lovingly referred to by others as “eco fascists” although there may not be anyone who actually proposes this view) but the recently popular concept of sustainable development concerns people, social justice and human welfare at its core.
This has been a really wordy post so I’m sorry about that. This is very different to my usual blog posts. I hope you found some of this stuff of interest! If any of you are interested in joining a march near you in December, let me know I can post some information and reminders here on the blog