Chris Cuomo, Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies, helped organize a bus from Georgia to NYC for the Climate Change March that took place on September 21, and was featured in the New York Times.
By Lisa W. Foderaro THE NEW YORK TIMES
NEW YORK — Under leaden skies, throngs of demonstrators stretching as far as the eye could see moved through Midtown Manhattan late Sunday morning, chanting their demands for action on climate change.
With drums and tubas, banners and floats, the People's Climate March represented a broad coalition of ages, races, geographic locales and interests, with union members, religious leaders, scientists, politicians and students joining the procession.
"I'm here because I really feel that every major social movement in this country has come when people get together," said Carol Sutton of Norwalk, Connecticut, the president of a teachers' union. "It begins in the streets."
Climates marches were held across the globe on Sunday, from Paris to Papua New Guinea, and with world leaders gathering at the United Nations on Tuesday for a climate summit meeting, marchers said the timing was right for the populist message in support of limits on carbon emissions. The signs that marchers held were as varied as the movement: "There is No Planet B," "Forests Not for Sale" and "Jobs, Justice, Clean Energy."
"The climate is changing," said Otis Daniels, 58, of the Bronx. "Everyone knows it; everyone feels it. But no one is doing anything about it."
At 12:58 p.m., organizers quieted the crowd for a moment of silence, followed by a blast of noise intended to sound an alarm on climate change. On Avenue of the Americas at 57th Street, there was an eerie silence as marchers raised their arms and looked down. At exactly 1 p.m., a whistle pierced the silence and set off a minute of solid sound: There were drumbeats and the blaring of horns, but mostly it was generated by people's whoops and screams.
The march began just before 11:30 a.m. and covered a 2-mile route starting in Columbus Circle. Toward the back of the march, protesters were still waiting to start moving at 1:30 p.m., two hours after the demonstration began.
The U.N. summit meeting this week is expected to create a framework for a potential global agreement on emissions late next year in Paris.
The timing of the march was also significant in another regard. Last week, meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that this summer — the months of June, July and August — was the hottest on record for the globe, and that 2014 was on track to break the record for the hottest year, set in 2010.
"Climate change is no longer an environmental issue; it's an everybody issue," Sam Barratt, a campaign director for the online advocacy group Avaaz, which helped plan the march, said Friday.
"The number of natural disasters has increased and the science is so much more clear," he added. "This march has many messages, but the one that we're seeing and hearing is the call for a renewable revolution."
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, whose administration announced this weekend a sweeping plan to overhaul energy efficiency standards in all city-owned buildings, was among the high-profile participants expected to join the march, including the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon; former Vice President Al Gore; the actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo; at least two U.S. senators; and one-third of the New York City Council.
The international events were intended as smaller demonstrations in solidarity with New York, but some were drawing tens of thousands of people.
Participants from across the country began arriving early on Sunday morning at the staging area near the American Museum of Natural History. Rosemary Snow, 75, stretched her legs after a nearly 14-hour bus ride from Georgia.
"I thought we'd have a lot of younger people on the bus," said Snow, who made the trip with her grandson. "There's a really great mix of people."
Snow had traveled with dozens of others who came from different parts of the state, including Valdosta, Savannah and Atlanta.
A professor at the University of Georgia, Chris Cuomo of Decatur, Georgia, said the group was organized by the Georgia Climate Change Coalition.
She said she hoped the coalition's presence at the rally would "let the rest of the world know that people from small-town America, urban America, rural America care about climate change."
Nearby, Ahni Rocheleau of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was seated while eating a breakfast of organic yogurt and buckwheat pancakes. She is a member of the Great March for Climate Action, a cross-country walk to raise awareness for alternative and sustainable energy practices.
"We hope the heart and mind of the people will be awakened," she said. "Coal is not the way to go."
Nearly 500 buses brought marchers from South Carolina, Kansas, Minnesota and Canada, while a "climate train" transported participants from California.
No speeches were planned, but the march was to end with a block party. There, participants could get a closer look at many of the floats and other artwork created for the march, including a 30-foot inflatable life preserver, 100 sunflowers and a model of the New York City skyline with bicyclists powering its lights.
With its bands and colorful floats, the march offered a festive atmosphere, but organizers said the underlying message was somber.
"We are trying to celebrate our lives and this planet in order to show that this is what we are fighting for," said Leslie Cagan, the logistics coordinator for the march. "It's the human spirit — and everything else on this planet — that is in danger."
The march was organized by a dozen environmental, labor and social justice groups, including the Sierra Club, Avaaz, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, 350.org, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and 1199 SEIU. In addition, more than 1,570 "partner organizations" signed on to march.
Organizers were hoping that the warm weather forecast for the day would yield a large turnout.
"Our biggest problem is the financial power of the fossil fuel industry," said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and author of "The End of Nature."
"We can't match that money," he said. "So we have to work in the currency of movements — passion, spirit, creativity and bodies — and it will all be on display on Sunday."
Photo: Demonstrators make their way down Sixth Avenue in New York Sunday during the People's Climate March. (credit: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)