What was supposed to be the mother of all climate marches was scotched after terrorist attacks shook Paris and left it in a state of emergency on the eve of the global climate negotiations, COP21, the 21st Conference of the Parties.
That didn't stop people from taking to the streets. In Paris, thousands of people joined hands all along the route planned for the march. 20,000 pairs of shoes were placed on the Place de la République, symbolising the marchers who were banned from marching on the streets.
But streets elsewhere did see marchers. 785,000 of them, according to organizer Avaaz, in thousands of cities large and small, from Alaska to the Antarctic, from Melbourne to Mumbai to Mexico City. If the large march in Paris had happened, the total would beat one million people. That's huge.
And what a march!
This march is a human family endeavour. There are some photos at the 350.org site as well as in the media. I've been following Bill McKibben's twitter feed, replete with photos people have sent him from all over.
Snowy Reykjavik, Sunny Canary Islands, marching in all temps for a cooler planet pic.twitter.com/sKUEWlWEg6— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) November 29, 2015
It's powerful to see the variety of people who have turned out for this: people in sarong, in suits, in shorts; in puffer jackets, in traditional garb, holding up signs in the world's languages, plus the universal ones: the blue-green earth, the red heart, the yellow sun. I found it hard to keep my eyes dry. Because it elicits an emotion I don't usually feel around climate change: hope.
Nobody knows what the effect is on the negotiators in Paris. What is certain is that the heads of state who have gathered there and gave their pretty speeches on Monday, all concur that it is time for real action.
Then they leave and leave the real work, the hard slog, to the negotiators, who will spend the next two weeks, under what's essentially a big tent, at Le Bourget.
We've got their back. An international poll found that "people in both rich and poor nations broadly favor their government signing an international agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal, natural gas and petroleum." In a recent poll of Americans, "most respondents said that in situations where a sacrifice must be made, protecting the environment was more important than stimulating the economy — by 54 percent to 34 percent."
In the mean time, the best way we can help the negotiators is to talk about global warming. Here is a good primer. And remember, the effects of climate change are compounded, sort of like interest on your savings: this means that the first pound of carbon that you save has the biggest effect.
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