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Marching for the planet — and for hope

REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
An estimated 400,000 marched in Manhattan last month demanding action on climate change.

Why would an overworked, overtired mom choose to miss work and load up with her 11- and 13-year-old into a crowded charter bus to make a bumpy 48-hour round-trip expedition from Minnesota to New York City for a climate change march? I asked myself that question repeatedly in the days before our departure. And now, back home, I’m still asking: Why did we do it? And what now?

Emily Green

I’d like to clarify that this was not a typical adventure for my family. Yes, we care about the environment, we camp, drive a Prius, use LED lightbulbs, compost, recycle, etc. But we have not previously been “march”-inclined folk. 

It’s not that I doubt the science showing that climate change is real. Nor that human activities are the cause, nor that potentially dire impacts are possible. But I’ve felt overwhelmed and confused as to how I can truly make or support change. Climate change seems so complex and irreversible that I’ve felt hopeless, paralyzed. And honestly, our family’s lifestyle is plenty fossil fuel-dependent, with car commutes, plane trips, electronic devices and a dependency on the utility companies. 

But along came this People’s Climate March opportunity. I heard about six buses going from Minnesota and, on a bit of a whim, decided my kids should glimpse that kind of activism, that kind of dedication to change. And who knows, maybe it would turn out to be as “historic” as folks were predicting. I gulped and signed up. 

Kids begin taking the lead

I had several acute worry episodes beforehand – about missing work, bus crashes, carsickness, violence, or most of all losing my children in massive Manhattan crowds. What was I thinking? Meanwhile my kids got excited, and focused. Turned out several other families from our school community had the same idea. Eight kids made a banner aimed at world leaders meeting in NYC the same week – “YOUR DECISIONS, OUR FUTURE, Seward Montessori, Minneapolis, MN” — inviting schoolmates to sign it. They began talking to peers, teachers and families about the cause. 

The march-day energy was incredible. Officials estimated the assemblage at around 400,000. With banners and MN-shaped signs in hand, our busload of 50 weary but suddenly wide-awake and wide-eyed Minnesotans unloaded and entered into the 30-block lineup along Central Park.

I had thought that my purpose that day was exposing my kids to public and historic activism, and so it came as a jolt how they led me. Our Minnesota children were instant leaders and inspirers of others, both our ragtag group and beyond. Walking behind their banner, they were like rock stars eliciting cheers, stares, pointing, and folks constantly maneuvering out of the crowd to photograph them with smartphones and giant news cameras. Theirs truly was THE message and they were the ones to carry it. Their future is literally at stake in the decisions, policies, and activities of today. 

Looking ahead

Now we’re home and pondering what’s next. I confess to a slight fear that an activism switch has turned on in my kids. I honestly don’t know if I can muster that energy repeatedly. And I’m a bit afraid of them scrutinizing and calling us, their parents, on our fossil fuel usage.

At the same time, I am so grateful that this experience touched them deeply, opened their eyes further to the urgency, the need for real, meaningful change on every level and policies that enforce it. It opened all of our eyes to the diversity of sectors and voices calling for our planet’s protection. And to the hopefulness that comes from being part of something huge. 

When asked about the experience, my kids immediately tell about that moment in the March at 1 p.m. when miraculously the throngs (and the city itself somehow) went silent, raising our hands to honor those who have already suffered from real climate change impacts. We had been instructed to end the silence with serious noise, our collective call for action.  

Standing there amongst skyscrapers, we heard a small sound begin far behind us in the line. It grew, and grew, and sped toward us with the physical presence of an accelerating train. Momentarily scary. Unlike anything any of us had ever experienced.  Suddenly the deafening clamor of thousands enveloped us, and we felt uplifted by a wave of possibility. Then the chants began, “We are unstoppable! A new world is possible!”  And I knew that my children – and I — will be part of it. 

Emily Green is a freelance writer/editor living in South Minneapolis.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/04/2014 - 02:28 am.

    A visit to NYC

    Ms Green notes in this beautiful article that “Climate change seems so complex and irreversible.”
    It seems that way because the earth’s weather and climate is complex, constantly changing, and there isn’t much we can do about it.
    Yet, I would feel more hope if 400,000 would march for an increase in the gasoline tax to provide more energy efficient public transport, with higher gas prices encouraging us to use it.
    Instead, we get Ban Ki Moon calling world leaders to NYC for another useless climate conference, with hand wringing over the plight of Bangladesh and sub-Saharan Africa. We could hope that UN leaders might meet in one of those places. But the 2015 UN climate meeting is in Paris with its comfortable climate, hotels and restaurants.
    The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is closing, the 9th year in a row with no Force 3 or stronger hurricane making US landfall. And as Warren Buffett recently noted, his casualty insurance companies have not had to raise rates for years, and don’t expect to for years, because there has been no increase in unusual weather events – no climate change.

  2. Submitted by Ray J Wallin on 10/04/2014 - 08:53 am.

    It seems Weird to me…

    Travel a thousand miles via gasoline to a non-centrally located event on the far east side of the United States, where just getting to the small island, you have to sit in traffic with your engines running, does not seem the way to march for a better planet. And 400,000 people doing the same thing?

    Almost all the signs at the protest said things like “Save the Planet.” Or “Climate March.” There didn’t seem to be any point to the gathering but to have a Kumbya moment. If your goal is to go and hug and congratulate each other, make signs like you did. If you want to produce actual change, tell the onlooker what to do. Have signs that say “Bike to Work” or “Recycle” or “Have local Kumbaya events”.

    I’m sure it was a great experience, but at what expense? Maybe teaching kids to be forward leading would be the better lesson.

  3. Submitted by Loretta Holscher on 10/04/2014 - 11:29 am.

    A visit to NYC

    I just read Emily Green’s article on the climate watch and ended up in tears of joy. It gives me great hope for my grandchildren to know that their generation was seen and inspired by the march. Bravo Emily and family, may others follow in your footsteps to save this beaten planet!

  4. Submitted by Joe Musich on 10/04/2014 - 08:49 pm.

    I loved the ….

    report and i wished I had gone. However I hold to the science of climate change and engage in best practices in my own life to help to bring the world back to 350. The evidence is clear as to what the future will bring unless we act now. I would hope that the policies and the laws of our nation soon come into accord with the rest of the world the the factual information coming to us day after day after day of the encroaching danger to the planet’s health and thereby the health of all living things. We must act now. The first step is to end the nitpicking.

  5. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/04/2014 - 10:42 pm.

    Science

    My Westgard cherry picks three data points against climate change, all the while ignoring thousands of scientists with tens of thousands of peer reviewed articles that say climate change is indeed real. That’s like holding up a thimble full of water and claiming the water tower behind him with 500,000 gallons in it does not exist.

    Personally, I prefer to go through life with a fact based reasoned approach to life.

  6. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/06/2014 - 06:34 am.

    97%

    Studies by Legates and others show that 97% of scientists don’t believe in climate change. It is a myth for Al Gore followers who think that rising seas will soon float ocean liners up 5th Avenue in NYC. Actually, sea level rise has slowed since the Wisconsin glacier melted and is now about one inch per decade – a thimble full not a water tower.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/06/2014 - 08:00 am.

      Legates

      Is this the same Legates who gets his funding from ExxonMobile? I think all credible scientists will agree that this makes Legates a suspect source.

      http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=55

      Do you care to cite your “and others” plus sources for your other data or quietly go away defeated?

      • Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/06/2014 - 03:10 pm.

        The myth continues

        Try the NIPCC website with scores of doubting scientists. 97%o f scientists used to think the world was flat. Or:
        As to the frequency of extreme-weather events, we have a recent TV interview by Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of world’s largest casualty insurers. Buffett noted on CNBC, “While the question of climate change deserves lots of attention, it has no effect on the prices we’re charging this year versus five years ago. And I don’t think it’ll have an effect on what we’re charging three years or five years from now. Hurricanes in recent years have been all profit. Future catastrophe forecasts appear to be no different than in the past.”

        Or as Stanford’s Nobel physicist, Robert Laughlin, put it recently, “Global warming forecasts have the further difficulty that one can’t find much actual warming in present day weather observations.”

        • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/07/2014 - 07:49 am.

          Buffett

          Wait, are you really going to stick with the Warren Buffett reasoning? From the very same interview you quoted above:

          “I calculate the probabilities in terms of catastrophes no differently than a few years ago,” Buffett replied. Though as co-host Joe Kernan was speaking over him, he added this qualifier: “That may change in 10 years.”

          Buffet does not deny that global climate change is an issue. He simply says he hasn’t adjusted insurance rates–yet.

          To sum up Laughlin, he argues that the climate has changed in the past (true), it’s a complex system (true), and therefor we can’t do anything about it (not true). Laughlin may be right in the long term (greater than 10,000 years), but it’s the next couple hundred years that we’re most concerned with. We need to survive the short term in order to get to the long term.

          Your sources so far have been thoroughly debunked. Do you want to keep going or give up in defeat? How much public humiliation do you want to go through? You’ve already used your best arguments and anything after this is just going to get weaker than the previous one.

  7. Submitted by Jan Neville on 10/06/2014 - 07:34 am.

    A sense of Hope

    I applaud Emily Green for making the trek to NYC with her kids to add their voices to the climate march. Her comment about the “hopefulness that comes with being part of something big” especially rang true. How easy it is to feel alone and full of despair with an issue this overwhelming – but in coming together there springs a sense of hope.
    There’s an opportunity here in our own backyard to join together to protect the planet – the Future First Women’s Congress, Nov 7-9. A time to learn from the experts, understand the issues, craft a better way forward and find hope together. FutureFirst.us
    We all share the responsibility of caring for our planet and ensuring a healthy future for our grandchildren and generations to come.

  8. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/06/2014 - 08:07 am.

    Legate

    Wow! I was just reading through a rebuttal on Legate’s 2006 report on climate change. It looks like Legate has more holes in his reasoning than a Swiss cheese factory.

    Check this link out if you want to read more about Westgate’s prime source.

    http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2006/06/11/refuting-a-global-warming-denier/

  9. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/06/2014 - 03:38 pm.

    Climate Change Deniers

    This cartoon pretty much sums up the climate change denier in a humorous way.

    http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/politicalcartoons/ig/Political-Cartoons/Climate-Denial.htm

    • Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/07/2014 - 04:45 am.

      Authorities

      I will stay with Warren Buffett and my alma mater’s Nobel Physicist. Try offering something hard like a stiff gasoline tax.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/07/2014 - 05:22 am.

      I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

      As Inigo Montoyo once famously said, “I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”.

      That is a great cartoon, as it illustrates a point that seems lost on 97% of people. The guy in the white lab coat ridicules the one who dares to question the dogma of settled science/consensus crowd. It is a vain attempt to stifle the conversation, yet they persist. The lab coat guy and his settled science consensus choir don’t wish to engage in meaningful discourse; they want to serve koolaid.

      However, what he has to say doesn’t carry much weight, as we can see his side of the balance is as high as if it were empty.

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/07/2014 - 07:58 am.

        Egypt Calls

        The lone guy in the white lab coat needs to bring data to the table. Real, viable, peer reviewed data, not cooked books. Until then he should rightly be booted off to the side until he can get his act together.

        The other 97% of scientists? They have the data that any denier can look over, process, and see where the data leads him. If he can come up with a different conclusion, then he’s free to get it published, reviewed, and earn credibility and fame. The fact that no one has done so yet says a lot about the denier’s position. Even Richard Muller, a long time denier, changed his tune once he ran the data himself and accounted for variances in the system.

        The deniers are the ones who don’t bring anything meaningful to the table. The best they can do is say “we had a tough winter here in Minnesota last year, therefor global warming is not real.”

        If you have data, peer reviewed articles, and in greater quantities than the other side, then by all means bring it to the forefront! I’m sure there’s a Nobel Prize in there for the person who can prove global warming is bunk.

  10. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/07/2014 - 10:00 am.

    Keep repeating 97% and …

    Keep repeating 97% and eventually people will accept it as fact. I think we are there; it is a bit childish, but very effective.

    The 97 notion, founded on the sandy foundation of an abstract counting project, has been roundly debunked. It is commonly understood that abstracts of academic papers frequently contain claims that are not substantiated in the papers.

    Headline: “World’s top climate scientists confess: Global warming is just QUARTER what we thought – and computers got the effects of greenhouse gases wrong”

    Read how 36 of 38 major computer climate models forecasted climate doom that never came to pass. Talk about a consenus; that’s 95% wrong!

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2420783/Worlds-climate-scientists-confess-Global-warming-just-QUARTER-thought–computers-got-effects-greenhouse-gases-wrong.html#ixzz3FTFA6Jxk

  11. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/07/2014 - 10:16 am.

    Warming

    For those who are open to logic, here’s a new article saying that evidence indicates our oceans have been warming faster than previously thought.

    http://www.minnpost.com/earth-journal/2014/10/new-evidence-suggests-earths-oceans-are-warming-far-faster-we-knew

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