The world’s largest ever march against climate change on Sunday (21 September) brought 400,000 people to the streets of New York, starting a
lively parade at Central Park. On Tuesday, 120 of the world’s political leaders — notably not including the Chinese and Indians — gathered 25 blocks away at the United Nations. The message they got from society was symbolized by the march route: instead of heading toward the UN building,
the activists headed the other way, west. This directional choice reveals that hope for action on climate change comes not from the apparently paralysed heads of state and their corporate allies, who again consistently failed on the most powerful challenge society has ever faced: to make
greenhouse gas emissions cuts necessary to halt certain chaos. Instead, momentum has arisen largely from grassroots activists, even those
fighting under the worst conditions possible, amidst denialism, apathy, corporate hegemony, widespread political corruption and pervasive consumer
materialism. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the place which according to Pew Research polling of major countries, suffers the second
most poorly educated citizenry on climate (only 40 per cent acknowledge it is a crisis): the United States itself.
(Keep travelling west and the country with the least knowledge of climate — only 39 per cent are informed — emerges on the horizon: China. In Brazil, awareness is 76 percent.) So the main encouragement offered by this march, for me as a witness to similar but smaller outpourings of protest at UN Summits in Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, and Warsaw between 2009-13, comes from the harsh terrain crossed, especially at gaudy Times Square: amongst the most culturally insane, ecologically untenable and politically barren on earth. The U.S. not only suffers from a congressional science committee led by Republican Party dinosaurs who deny climate change, but its civil society is populated far too many single-issue campaigning NGOs unable to see outside their silos, defeatist environmentalists many of whom are coopted by big business, and mild-mannered trade unions scared to engage in class and environmental struggles.
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