This weekend is the People's Climate March, which will almost certainly be the largest climate march in U.S. history. It is more than just a march about the environment, though, it is an opportunity to begin building a mass movement, one that has the potential to radically change the course of U.S. politics. As all of us living through this increasingly dire period of American history know, environmental devastation is just one of the many serious problems we currently face.
Take Ferguson, Missouri, for instance, where an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a cop. As people took to the streets in response, it became clear to everyone watching that our municipal police departments have now been completely militarized. We seem to be at war again, America, only this time it is against ourselves.
And this sort of deadly police violence is by no means limited to Ferguson. In Staten Island just a few weeks before Ferguson, a black man was strangled to death by the police. His crime, as captured on video, was standing in front of a store. For that cops now kill people, apparently.
For those lucky enough to avoid being killed by the police, they can always count on a place waiting for them inside the largest prison system in the world. As human activity becomes increasingly criminalized in America, our prison populations continue to grow. Black men under 35 without a high school diploma are now more likely to be in jail than they are to be employed. So much for liberty and justice for all.
And then there's the NSA, who thanks to Edward Snowden we now know has access to more or less every piece of electronic communication any of us ever transmits. But they're not the only ones snooping on us. Huge private data companies also collect it all, helping advertisers and corporations the world over manipulate us into buying more of their crap, usually on credit.
Women's rights are under attack too, both from the male judges on the Supreme Court and by sanctimonious corporations who are being granted the same rights as you and I. Because, you know, they're people too right? And not just any old person either, but very rich people who can donate seemingly endless amounts of cash to influence our utterly bankrupt two-party political system.
And let's not forget the workers, or those lucky enough to have a job anyways. Wages have been stagnant for over four decades now, and inequality is reaching levels unseen since just before the great depression.
On top of that we're more indebted than any previous generation in American history, and there's virtually no prospect of upward social mobility, that false promise that keeps the fantasy of a just and fair capitalism alive. Anyone can become anything they want, it's just that about 99% of us will end up working increasingly precarious, unremunerative jobs, forced to live off debt just to get by.
We're also less healthy than any other comparable nation, having shorter life spans and higher rates of infant mortality than any of our European peers. And what's even more repulsive about the state of our healthcare system is that we pay more for it than any other country in the world. Pay more to feel worse: a uniquely American approach to public health.
And these are just a few of the things we're doing to ourselves. God help you if you live in any country outside of Freedomville, USA.
Occasionally we still bother sending troops to devastate a country like Iraq or Afghanistan, but increasingly we are leaving the destruction up to our trusty unmanned drones. Our guiding principle with these seems to be: if you are a human being living in a country other than ours and you are deemed a "terrorist" or "militant," well then we can blow you up, along with everyone else around you. Because you are a "militant," you see?
And on top of Obama's charmingly titled "kill list," the guy has also earned the nickname of "Deporter in Chief" for his relentless, unsparing commitment to outdoing his predecessor Bush in the number of so-called "illegals" he deports. When liberty and justice pulse through every vein in your body as we know they do for all native-born Americans, deporting those without such free and just native-born blood becomes a sort of moral imperative. Let's remain pure, America. None of our ancestors ever came from anywhere else, after all.
Which brings us back to the environment. In spite of literally the entire scientific community being convinced that human caused climate change is the greatest existential threat to mankind, Americans remain bafflingly unconvinced. For us, it is still a matter for debate, much to the rest of the world's horror.
The only problem with that is that it's not actually up for debate. It's happening and unless human beings -- American or otherwise -- decide to do something about it, we just may end up destroying the most fundamental thing to human survival: the planet earth.
None of the things mentioned above happen in isolation though, but are all the product of a much larger system. Living in an increasingly militarized police state, jailing more people than any other country, having an Orwellian surveillance state, attacking women's rights, increasing economic inequality and growing debt, providing the most expensive and least effective health care, killing people with drones, deporting millions of human beings -- all these things are connected. And together they paint a picture of a broken system.
Which is why the People's Climate March is such an exciting moment. We need to seize this opportunity not only to demand that America begin taking serious action to combat climate change, but also to connect this struggle with all the other struggles we are fighting for, struggles for social and economic justice, for better healthcare and a more just immigration policy, for civil, LGBT, and women's rights.
Clearly the current system is failing us. Recognizing this, we are going to have to begin seriously thinking about changing this failed system. These changes won't come from politicians from either party, each owned as they are by myriad corporate interests, but instead from a mass movement demanding a more just and equitable system. Hundreds of thousands of people coming together in a single city seems like the perfect place to start.
Also of interest to people going to the People's Climate March, the night before, on September 20th, there will be a panel discussion featuring Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, and Kshama Sawant. Additionally, the NYC Climate Convergence, which will be taking place all weekend, is also a good opportunity for further engagement.