On September 21, people will take to the streets of New York City to demand international action on climate change. The People's Climate March coincides with the United Nation's Climate Summit hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. While we need our leaders to take swift action to reduce carbon emissions and invest in climate resiliency, they have failed to do so to date. The march will feature tens of thousands of diverse constituents that will call on international leaders to be bold and to have the courage to say NO to polluters and YES to people. While it is not possible for everyone who cares about these issues to be physically present in New York in September, everyone can and should participate through social media and other channels. Only when we are loud enough with our demands and active with our voting will we break the chains that shackle our elected officials to industrial polluters.
I am marching in the People's Climate March for many reasons, but two of them stand out. The first is my children. I have a six-year old son and a three-year old daughter who mean everything to me, and I want their lives to be full of clean water, clean air, clean energy, equality, good jobs, and a strong economy. My biggest fear is that I will look back 20 years from now and wonder if there was more I could have done to ensure a safe and healthy future for them. Or wonder if it was a mistake to bring them into this world at all. We owe it to future generations to give them a better world than what we inherited. Right now, we are failing in that moral obligation.
Leaving them a better world does not mean giving them a handout. It means giving them a place where they have the infrastructure - clean air, clean water, plentiful forests and more - to support healthy life and reward hard work and ingenuity. How are we doing with that? Here in New York City - the site of the march - many communities still struggle two years later to recover from Superstorm Sandy. In Suffolk County, New York, there have been approximately 150 beach closings from excessive pollution this summer, stealing away our children's right to swim. California is suffering an epic drought, forcing residents to have difficult conversations about future water and food supplies. Meanwhile, Bangladesh continues to lose land mass to the rising seas, driving citizens into Dhaka - a city with an already stressed infrastructure. Our current trajectory saddles future generations with conflict, disease, poverty, instability, and a long list of horribles. Is that what we want to leave as our legacy?
Second, I'm marching for Waterkeeper Alliance on behalf of our Waterkeepers - women and men on the front lines of extreme weather events, sea level rise, flooding, ocean acidification, and drought, among other terrible tragedies. They are on the frontlines, seeing the local impacts to our changing climate. These are local leaders like His Holiness, the Gyalwang Drukpa, who can no longer join the march because he is in Ladakh, India, helping Gya Village, which was hit by a flash flood as a result of melting glaciers in the Himalayas. Many families have been dislocated and agricultural lands have been destroyed. Other leaders include Sally Bethea, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, who leads efforts to ensure a future drinking water supply for metro Atlanta, while also making sure that water flows down to Florida to support important shellfish beds in Apalachicola Bay.
These are the local leaders who are taking action, as our elected "leaders" fiddle while the world burns. Our local leaders need international action by true leaders that are willing to stand up to polluters and that understand that their legacy has two paths: failing to act or being a courageous visionary. If enough of us take to the streets and make our voices heard, we hope our leaders will hear the cry and have backbone and courage to envision a future that is just for all.
These are a few reasons why I am marching. And if you cannot be physically present for the march, make your voice heard on social media with the hashtag #peoplesclimate, while also tagging @waterkeeper and be sure to support your New York area local leaders like Hackensack Riverkeeper, Hudson Riverkeeper, Long Island Soundkeeper, New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, and Peconic Baykeeper. For more information on the march, see waterkeeper.org. Please join us.