One contingent of the multitudinous climate rallies that coalesced as a mass of more than 300,000 people on Sunday, September 21, stirred to life outside the TimeWarner Center, on Columbus Circle, which was symbolic on a number of levels. It is unclear how the site for this part of the demonstration, which hosted a multifaith gathering of believers, was decided. Near where a miniature Noah's Ark and a mosque stood was the colossal commercial behemoth housing "the shops of Columbus Circle," named after the man who according to our national mythos discovered America, at a time when Mannahatta was a primeval paradise and long before the Lenape exchanged their ancestral birthright for $26 and some beads.
While the United Nations General Assembly rumbles back into operation -- Ban Ki-Moon was spotted among the throngs of assembled protesters -- virtually no scientific doubt exists that anthropogenic global warming is a serious problem. Perhaps that is unfair to the miniscule of scientists under the payroll of the very vested interests whose entire raison d'etre is to keep our society tethered permanently to a hydrocarbon-based economy. This reporter finds it hard to accept that the chief executive officers of the major energy corporations do not care about the fate of future generations, including their own children and grandchildren. The social order is changing, armed with more information than it ever had. Many times throughout the day a particular message resonated. Here is a sampling of some of the more poignant signage.
GREED IS NO EXCUSE FOR THE RAPE OF THE PLANET
THIS PLANET CANNOT SUSTAIN THIS SYSTEM
EVIDENCE UNDENIABLE. CONSENSUS IRREFUTABLE. EFFECTS INESCAPABLE. ACT NOW.
THE TEMP IS RISING -- SO ARE WE
And, a real crowd-pleaser:
Did you know, according to the PETA section, that one gallon of milk requires 1,000 gallons of water? Not too far away, another small group rooted for nuclear fusion. In the late morning, as various faiths began merging on West 58th Street and Broadway, Bob Pashos became aware of the climate problem "several years ago, just in trying to keep up with the news." Pashos added that the scientific establishment pointed to "a need for concern because of the build up of the greenhouse effect and the dangerous escalation of the temperature and the effects that they were already starting to see."
"Since then it's only gotten worse and worse," Pashos, who is from St. Louis, went on to say, holding aloft a sign that read, WE OPPOSE CORPORATE GREED AND POLITICAL CORRUPTION THAT DENIES AND WORSENS CLIMATE CHANGE! "As the years went on and I became more aware that we're getting closer and closer to a lot of the tipping points that I became even more concerned." To save the planet, stop the fossil fuel companies: they are "one of the large forces holding us back from doing what we need to do." Lobbyists for the non-renewable energy industry "are so big and powerful that the bottom line is they bought our politicians."
Carrie Gardner from the Jewish revival congregation Romemu was there as a man on the stage prepared to sing "Do Lord" for the jazzed-up crowd. She brought 300 people from her temple alone. Years ago, Gardner said, "I read Al Gore's book Earth in the Balance. I already knew what was going on, but I read his book and when I got to the part about the black hole, I closed the book because I was terrified. I know it, I get it." The former vice president of the United States wrote more than two decades ago,
The potential for true catastrophe lies in the future, but the downslope that pulls us toward [the black hole] is becoming recognizably steeper with each passing year. What lies ahead is a race against time. Sooner or later the steepness of the slope and our momentum down its curve will take us beyond a point of no return.
"We are not going to be able to reconstitute the glaciers and bring back the lost species," Gardner said, "but what we can and must do and will do and have no choice is we have to live into the future in a sustainable way. We can no longer live the way we've been living on this planet." Across the street from the Columbus Circle shops, she added that humans can no longer "live in a consumer world the way we do." But we are not "saving the planet," however. "The planet is here to stay. The planet will throw us off like flies, and it will be here without us," Gardner added. "This movement is to save life."
Closer to Central Park South and Broadway, hundreds more were gathering under the various labor union umbrellas as a New Orleans-style band began to play. Josephine "Josie" Harrison held up an image of the Brooklyn Bridge submerged under water. After Hurricane Sandy hit, her thinking of the issue was forever changed. "The Lower East Side was not prepared. Hospitals were not ready for it. They had to evacuate a lot of people," in addition to the plight of the people in the outer boroughs who were out of the grid "for weeks if not months." Harrison mentioned how President Carter had put solar panels on the White House roof. Referring to the major oil and gas interests, she said, "It's all by design, they know what they're doing. They don't care."
While on her gap year at college volunteering in Senegal, Lily Goldberg was a part of the movement to stop the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which got her involved more deeply in environmental issues. "We need a president like Theodore Roosevelt," Goldberg said. "I feel for Obama and I don't know much of what his daily life is like, but I assume he's pushed up against a wall and doesn't have a lot of options. At the same time I wish he could be more rebellious." Her friend, Zoe Ulrich, commented that the politicians, and their corporate masters, "are prioritizing money and power over the health and well-being and love of our planet," Ulrich added. "Our generation is the generation of 'we don't give a fuck.' And I can't stand that! The opposite has to be true. You have to care; that's the first step."
A dinosaur whose spine was composed of motor oil containers rolled down Central Park West near West 65th Street as Sierra Damours was perched on a high stone wall. What should be done to save the biosphere? Everyone should ride bikes, garden, and get involved in local government, Damours said. "There's no money in stopping the oil from being burned or taking the trash out of the oceans. Everyone is doing their own part in their own way."