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Advocates Return From People’s Climate March

People's Climate March

Estimates vary, but up to 400,000 people converged on New York City Sunday for the People’s Climate March, including thousands of people from this region.

Grassroots organizers had trouble finding enough buses to carry the volumes of people who wanted to travel to what ended up being the largest ever climate march.  More than 1,500 Vermonters were in attendance, including Middlebury College Schumann Distinguished Scholar Bill McKibben, considered the father of the movement.

He is the founder of 350.org and the author of numerous books on the environment including The End of Nature. McKibben, one of the organizers of Sunday’s People’s Climate March, says it exceeded all expectations.  “We’d been very hopeful that we would get 100,000 people to New York. But instead the thing just exploded. You almost have to apologize to all the people who came down. There were amazing busloads of people from Vermont, from the Berkshires, from the Hudson Valley and from the Capital District and everywhere. Some of them had to wait two, three hours before they even got to march because there were so, so many people. I think what’s going on is that this issue is finally front and center where it needs to be. It’s the most important issue on the planet. This was not just the biggest climate rally, it was the biggest political gathering about anything in a very long time. And it was the willingness of people to take the time and energy to get there that did that.”

The Vermont Natural Resources Council was among the groups that worked to bring people to the rally. Membership and Outreach Coordinator Keil Corey says he had never before been part of something like the People’s March. He describes a lot of excitement and diversity on the streets.  “We of course had our own little Vermont contingent kind-of at the back of the march. I took some time to go explore the length of the march to see what other groups were there. It was incredibly diverse: faith groups, community groups of all types, social justice, political groups, businesses. You name it, everyone was there, health workers. It was incredible. It was quite inspiring.”  

Vermont Public Interest Research Group Clean Energy Advocate Ben Walsh was also there.  “The march was really something to behold. There was incredible energy and especially in the Vermont contingent just a real sense that it’s time and that we know we need to take responsibility for our actions. Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon actually was part of the demonstration himself. So the fact that it is a grassroots movement is starting to pay real dividends, although obviously we still have a long way to go.”

Sage Colleges International History and Politics Professor Dr. Steven Leibo was at the march. The WAMC commentator was struck by the people he saw - including scientists, health professionals, and union members.  “This enormous march I think can play a very big role and it is growing. The only problem of course is that while we are making enormous progress we are still burning more and more fossil fuels. Greenhouse gasses don’t care if we’re making progress. The problem is moving faster than we are.”

More than 120 world leaders will convene Tuesday for the United Nations Climate Summit, which is aimed at galvanizing political will for a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015.

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