This Sunday, days before a United Nations summit on climate change, some 1,400 organizations will come together on the Upper West Side for the People’s Climate March. According to a press release, some 100,000 attendees are expected, including actor Mark Ruffalo and senators Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse.
Among the dozens of local organizations partnering in the march are Good Old Lower East Side, Cooper Square Committee, El Puente, and La MaMa. Minutes ago, the 14th Street Y sent out an e-mail inviting members to march with it. And tonight at 8 p.m., Williamsburg-based Time’s Up will be at La Plaza Cultural in the East Village, making signs in conjunction with the annual LUNGS Harvest Festival (there’ll be more events at local community gardens tomorrow.)
On Tuesday, around 50 people joined six community organizers and four 350.org Global Climate Ambassadors to discuss the march and the issues surrounding it.
“The majority of carbon emissions, like 72 percent of carbon emissions, actually come from countries in the global north: United States, Canada, parts of Europe,” said Thanu Yakupitiyage, the Communications Coordinator of the New York Immigration Coalition. “And yet the largest impact of climate change are actually from people of the global south.”
Yakupitiyage, originally from Sri Lanka, said that as more countries like her own and the Maldives get flooded, more people are migrating to countries like the United States for environmental and not just economic reasons.
“It’s going to be a huge part of why it is that people move,” she said. “It is today and it’s going to continue to be in the future.”
However, Yakupitiyage added that front-line communities, those who suffer the effects of climate change first, are present closer to home.
“New York is a place that is also impacted by climate change: Hurricane Sandy is a perfect example,” she said.
Carlina Rivera, Director of Programs and Services of Good Old Lower East Side, said that after Sandy hit in 2012, many Lower East Side organizations came together to form a coalition, LES Ready!, to “empower its low-income tenants and residents” in the face of disaster.
“Sandy was kind of a reminder that low-income communities are constantly overlooked,” said Rivera. “It was not just the LES; it was the South Bronx, it was Redhook, these neighborhoods where there are people of color.”
Gökşen Şahin said citizens in her home country of Turkey are also mobilizing and building coalitions on climate change at the local level, but that the climate movement is also about building “an alliance with other cultures.” Şahin is one of the climate activists from around the world who have been appointed as Global Climate Ambassadors by 350.org, one of the main organizers of the march.
Şahin, a founder of Turkey’s Global Action Group and the Environmental Policies Coordinator and Climate Policy Officer of theTEMA Foundation, is looking forward to the march, but hopes that it does not end there.
“Sunday is not the big point, it’s one of the biggest points,” she said. “Then we have to continue to build this movement.”
Artists and activists have also been convening at Bushwick’s Mayday space. Last weekend, we paid a visit to see what food justice advocates, domestic workers, Occupy Sandy members, cycling activists, and others were up to there.
“Art can be at the DNA of your organizing and this has been our strategy,” said Gan Golan of the Mayday Arts Team People. “We are going to communicate big stories about climate change and the ways communities are responding.”
Watch video above to see what this varied group has in store.
Text by Eric Monge. Video by Claudia Prat.
Editor’s Note: The original version of this post was expanded to add information about the Tuesday event at New School.