Commentary: Marching to preserve the world

Susan Hunter
Susan Hunter

The count is now 400,000. That’s the number of people from all over the world who walked the streets of New York City on Sunday in the People’s Climate March.

The march was a pre-amble to this week’s meeting of world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit 2014 that aims to promote climate action on an international level and address the long-term consequences of climate change.

I was one of the marchers, and one of many who awoke at 5 a.m. to catch a bus to the city — lugging signs, water bottles and trail mix — and tramp over asphalt for five hours to be part of a large gathering of people who want to see action taken.

Many of us have seen the aerial photographs of Sunday’s march, showing marchers and their banners and signs filling the streets of Manhattan — from Central Park West and the Avenue of the Americas, to the theater district and the western-most fringes along the Hudson River.

That’s the global view, symbolizing, in a way, the hundreds of thousands and millions of people already being affected by the climate crisis that scientists, climatologists and government policy makers say has been caused by people burning fossil fuels.

The ground-level view

Then there was the personal view. The images of marching at ground level always bring it home for me. You see what is around you, within a few feet — baseball caps bobbing, chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, fossil fuels have got to go,” and the strains of This Land Is Your Land strummed on a guitar.

A little girl on her father’s shoulders held a sign, “Look Mom, No Future”; a toddler squealed in joy at the sight of a tired puppy resting on his master’s shoulder, and exuberant college students marched as a group toward a future that most certainly will present a changed world if nothing is done about the climate crisis.

A scientific fact

It’s scientific fact — not a political agenda — that the burning of coal, gas and oil to produce energy emits carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases and that the amount of carbon in the air has been rising since humans began burning these fossil fuels in the 18th century.

The result has been a warming atmosphere that will continue to produce severe storms, rising sea levels, melting ice caps, drought and mosquito-borne disease.

The bad news is that we have caused climate change, but the good news is that we can, if we act quickly, reverse its consequences.

But it will take more than using cloth shopping bags and LED light bulbs, buying hybrid cars and developing a smattering of offshore wind farms.

What we must do

It will take new laws, worldwide policy changes, reducing fossil fuel emissions, revamping the energy generation industry, and adapting to a world already feeling the effects of climate change.

Groups are mobilizing at this moment asking people to pledge to support political candidates who will address the climate crisis and companies who are divesting assets tied to fossil fuel companies.

Becoming an active part of the grassroots climate movement can only bode well for a planet in a crisis that has to be reversed.

Susan Hunter is former editor of Hersam Acorn’s Valley Gazette and a current freelance writer for the Shelton Herald.