Ready For The Largest-Ever Climate Protest?

by Alicia Lu

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people are expected to converge in New York City for what is being billed as the largest climate change march in history. You might be expecting a typical kind of eco-protest — saving the polar bears, maybe, or opposing the Keystone XL pipeline — but the People's Climate March has a different kind of mission. And with its unprecedented scale and strategic timing, the demonstration could lead to real reform.

While countless climate change protests in the past have been carried out by specific groups targeting select businesses or politicians, often with very precise aims, think of the People's Climate March as an umbrella demonstration that incorporates every activist, target, and aim. Rather than environmental groups and activists alone, more than 1,400 businesses are also partnering with the event to show that local organizations and communities are also calling for reform, since climate change often affects the poorest communities the most.

According to march's registration page, "This is an invitation to change everything." How likely is it to make any concrete changes? If there is anything we've learned about pushing for climate change awareness in the past, it's that change can be slow. But in a highly unexpected — and extremely significant — move, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has announced his participation in Sunday's march. Ben told a press conference:

I will link arms with those marching for climate action. We stand with them on the right side of this key issue for our common future.

The participation of such a high-ranking official, specifically one who will be leading an upcoming summit on climate change, is already evidence that the march is succeeding in its mission.

What Is the Mission?

The organizers see the march as a broader movement that will address not only the usual environmental issues, but also the social and economic ramifications of an increasingly changing climate.

Organizer Paul Getsos told Gothamist:

We want to communicate to world leaders that there is a large, diverse and mobilized constituency to hold them to account. This is not the old kind of climate march where we’re just talking about polar bears. It’s bigger than that. We’re talking about environmental racism and climate justice.

For the first time, someone is fighting for the communities that are hit the hardest, not just environmental groups who already receive plenty of support.

The march is divided into six themes, and demonstrators can join whichever contingent they identify with the most. The themes are: To Change Everything, We Need Everyone, The Debate Is Over, We Know Who Is Responsible, We Have Solutions, We Can Build the Future, and Frontlines of Crisis, Forefront of Change.

Why Now?

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Sunday's march will happen two days before the U.N.'s Climate Summit, which will be attended by President Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as a host of other international heads of state. The world leaders will discuss how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before signing a new global climate agreement in Paris next year.

So what better way to apply the pressure on such a landmark climate meeting than with a landmark demonstration?

How Can I Join?

If you want to participate in the People's Climate March, just go to the website and click "Sign Up." The march will assemble on Central park West between 65th and 86th Streets and begin at 11:30 a.m. The route will take the marchers down to 59th Street, where they'll head east to 6th Avenue, then turn on 42nd Street to go west to 11th Avenue, before ending at 11th Avenue and 34th Street.

If you want to march with the general crowd, start at Central Park West and 86th Street, but if you want to march with a specific group, visit the site's page of lineups.

Images: People's Climate March/Facebook, People's Climate March, Getty Images (1)