Next Tuesday, President Obama and 124 other world leaders will convene in New York City for a United Nations summit to address climate change. The summit, organized by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, represents an attempt to get nations on track to reach a globally binding climate deal, expected in 2015. It's been years since this many world leaders have gathered in one place for a meeting of this import.
But that's not the real story here.
Before the summit, these world leaders will be met by the largest march New York has seen in over a decade, and the largest climate march in history: The People's Climate March on Sept. 21, over 100,000 demonstrators will flood the streets, demanding world leaders heed the science and act urgently to combat climate change. There will be simultaneous actions in cities and countries across the globe.
This March will be historic not only in size, but also in the unprecedented alliance of movements represented -- over 1,000 faith, labor, LGBTQ, social justice, business, student, health, indigenous groups and communities on the frontlines of climate change have endorsed the march, including some of the world's top environmental groups, some of the nation's largest labor unions, and justice-oriented organizations including the NAACP.
Endorsements have also come from actors like Edward Norton, musicians like Peter Gabriel, and international sports stars like Lionel Messi. This Sunday, All of these groups will stand together with a unified message: The time to act on climate is now.
This march itself is not a goal, but a new beginning, a bold announcement of a new chapter of the climate justice movement as it evolves to become what it needs to be: A broader, deeper, inclusive intersectional movement of movements, representing people from all walks of life and every generation yet to come.
There is no question that more work must be done to do justice and to the people on the frontlines and those most impacted by climate change, as well as racism, inequality, and other systems of oppression. Fortunately, climate organizers are starting to challenging themselves, ask the tough questions, and engage in new ways with a truly unprecedented and diverse group of allies.
This march is also expanding local capacity, building lasting connections and empowering the next generation of change-makers to engage, learn new skills, and lead the way to a more just and livable world.
This Sunday in New York, we're putting politicians and world leaders on notice in a way they can't ignore, while also building the type of movement we truly need--diverse, unified, empowered, engaged, and ready to win.
The People's Climate March will be remembered not for its historic scope, but for the turning point it represents. This march, by itself, is not enough. It is not at the march, but in the months afterward that the real work will continue, not just at United Nations summits, but in fracking sites, coal ash dump sites, campuses, cities, towns, and impacted and frontline communities around the world.
There has never been a moment where humanity has had a choice this simple, and this irreversible -- We can either make history together, or become history as a global civilization.
When your grandparents ask you what you did to avert climate catastrophe, what will you say? I will tell them I was there for them, at the People's Climate March, but also afterward, to build a better world.