It was a beautiful day in Rhode Island on Sunday (unless you were a die-hard Pats fan), not the kind of day you want to spend inside. Nevertheless, I found myself in a darkened classroom on the campus of Brown University in order to watch Disruption, a documentary that dropped online that day and which is designed to drive people into the streets to demand global action on climate change. The film gave me goosebumps several times, both anticipating the impending People's Climate March in NYC on September 21 and reminiscing about the giant Forward on Climate rally in D.C. last February. It runs a little over 50 minutes, and it makes a compelling case for people to show up in New York. [stream it here]
Indeed, the People's Climate March is expected to draw more than 200,000 people to demonstrate the urgency of reducing carbon emissions to world leaders who will be in town for a United Nations summit on climate change. It will be thrilling. The film builds excitement for the march by interlacing behind the scenes clips of the amazing organizing work being done to make it all run smoothly with interviews of renowned climate activists. The organizers' perspective on the march is reinforced by periodically counting down the days until September 21st, beginning 100 days out and ending with 14 to go. As an organizer myself, it was this aspect of the movie that spoke to me most clearly.
The famous folks like Van Jones, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, and James Hansen add their own compelling arguments, too. Hailing from RI, as I do, I found the words of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to be particularly interesting, especially since he is the only one in the film speaking from the insider's perspective. Coincidentally, the team of climate activists I'm working with to bring people from Little Rhody down to the Big Apple caught up with the Senator while he was in Providence last week. Unaware that he was going to star in the movie we would be screening in just a couple more days, we asked him why it was important to show up on the 21st.
"The world, in this like in so many other areas, looks to the US for leadership so it's really important that US citizens keep up pressure on the US government to lead the kind of international charge that we need to solve this problem before it gets to be too late and degrades too much of our environment and our way of life." ~ Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Even if you know you can't make it to the People's Climate March, I recommend watching the movie to get a sense of the scale of the movement we need to create in the coming decades in order to save civilization as we have known it. It requires unprecedented action, and it's made more difficult by human psychology, which isn't biologically designed to grapple with problems that emerge and must be resolved over generations. This challenge is acknowledged in "Disruption." The theory in the film and behind the march itself is to get enough people onto the streets to reach a cultural tipping point, a place in our collective consciousness where we can plan for the long term and act accordingly.
We are closer to this tipping point than we realize, and each new pair of boots on the ground brings us a step closer. In New York and beyond, if we hope to stop business and politics as usual, me must be the disruption.