“Teamsters For Climate Change Action” walked in front of us. “Don’t Frack With the Catskills” walked behind. On the left, the green canopy of Central Park looked especially lush against the gunmetal sky. On the right, onlookers watched from windows and sidewalks as the largest climate change march in history walked through the heart of Manhattan.
At 11 a.m on Sunday, more than 400,000 people crowded Central Park west and began a slow walk to 34th Street, by way of Times Square. Al Gore was in the crowd, as was Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Bill McKibben, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jane Goodall. Signs ranged in tone from “Don’t Mess With Our Mama” to “There Is No Planet B” to “Our Planet Our Future.” The message was the same, though. Get your heads out of the sand. Get corporate hands out of the piggy bank. And stop killing our families, farms, economies, environment, and our mountains.
Skiers in the crowd voiced the last message the loudest. Most walked with Chris Steinkamp of Protect Our Winters (POW) and Auden Schendler of the Aspen Skiing Company and POW. Both traveled across the country to take part in the historic event. A woman wearing ski goggles walked beneath the POW banner, as did Naomi Oreskes, POW board member and author of the incredible book, Merchants of Doubt. “This is the kind of grassroots activism that the climate movement needs to break through to world leaders who have the future of our planet in their hands,” Steinkamp said. “And with so much at stake, to be there, representing the snow sports community with our POW members was incredibly meaningful.”
It was a fitting route to march. The ivory towers of Manhattan’s Upper West Side stood eerily quiet and dark as the mob passed by. At 1 p.m. a moment of silence was announced. All 400,000 people immediately hushed, then a wave of shouting and cheering rolled down eighth avenue as the “climate alarm” sounded.
The roar washed over us, and the enormity of the moment set in. This is the time. Perhaps the last second of overtime in a game that will determine if our children will know winter as we did, and if the world we know today will survive. This is not alarmist. It is not speculation. It is fact. The scientific debate is over. If you do not believe in climate change and the fact that humans are influencing it, then you do not believe in a future.
Rupert Murdoch’s The Wall Street Journal published another egregiously erroneous opinion piece to coincide with the march. It was written by Steven E. Koonin and ran in the ambiguously named department “The Saturday Essay,” masking for many readers whether they were reading truth or opinion. If Koonin’s continued references to long-debunked climate myths don’t prove his ignorance and intentions, then his resume might: Chief Scientist of British Petroleum.
Saturday was not about denying, though. It was about accepting, learning, and acting. POWDER was there to show its support. POW was there. Aspen Skiing Company was there, as were a few thousand skiers mixed in the crowd. We marched because we care about our jobs, our land, and our children. And nearly a half million people last Sunday in New York thought that was worth getting out of bed for.