People’s Climate March (PCM), the organizers of today’s event, estimated at least 100,000 people would converge on the stretch of Central Park West, starting at Columbus Circle and running north. The New York Police Department does not provide crowd estimates, but using a crowd density analysis formula developed by Carnegie Mellon University, PCM told media the official count at 3 pm EST was closer to triple that amount.
The excitement in the air, as well as the humidity, was palpable as celebrities, students and activists took to the streets of Manhattan – without arrests or incidents, according to NYPD. One marcher’s sign in particular summed up the feelings of the crowd and their general message to the upcoming UN Climate Summit on Tuesday: “There is no Earth upgrade.”
In a show of support, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined the crowd amidst a packed schedule of events, as did New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Also in attendance was Oscar-nominated actor Mark Ruffalo, one of the most passionate public voices on climate change action and renewable energy use. Planet Experts caught up with him just before he led his own contingent in march, those calling for the end to fracking.
“Any artist, to be fully realized, should be engaged in social justice. That’s our place, it’s part of our tradition,” he said.
— FrackAction (@FrackAction) September 21, 2014
The message was simple, he claimed: “Two plus two equals four, [that’s] climate science.” After seeing the negative and far-reaching effects of fracking technologies on ecosystems, Ruffalo said there was no way he could sit back and ignore the problem because he felt it was a threat to his children and their future. “If I wasn’t here today, I’d be a phony,” he said. Calling them “cowards,” a fired up Ruffalo derided politicians who cut down actors like him and Leonardo DiCaprio for promoting climate justice because they receive campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies. Artists like DiCaprio, he says, have a far wider reach than these government officials, which scares them into making personal attacks.
— Sierra Club (@sierraclub) September 21, 2014
Undeterred, Ruffalo said his message to Summit leaders is “be bold, if you know and believe [in climate action]. If you don’t, then move out of the way, because we’re pushing you out.”
Zobee Ali, a 15-year-old high school student at Staten Island Tech, says climate action has to be the top priority of political leaders because “we all live here, everyone has their own problems,” but this is a shared one. Ali’s friend Adam Hmada, 14-year-old student at Fort Hamilton High School, said they were marching today to show that kids his age know that “earth itself is more important than anything” despite the perception that many of them do not truly understand the magnitude of climate change.
Hmada wants world leaders to know that “if we focus on climate and improve it…we can improve our economy.”
A wide variety of other people were represented at the march as well, from physicians calling attention to the health risks of climate change to indigenous peoples marching to protect their traditional connection to the earth. Echoed by many marchers throughout the day, climate activist and writer Lauren Lavitt said the sheer size of the march was inspiring.
Images Courtesy of Mythili Sampathkumar © 2014