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Five Reasons We’re Joining the People's Climate March

Climate
Five Reasons We’re Joining the People's Climate March

[Editor's note: Can't make it to NYC for the People's Climate March? Watch it on EcoWatch here, tomorrow, Sunday, Sept. 21 starting at 10:30 a.m.]

On Sept. 21, we join tens of thousands of people from across the country in the historic People’s Climate March in New York City. We’re thrilled to be marching alongside a diverse spectrum of Americans to demand meaningful action on climate change—the pivotal issue of our time and one on which millions of lives and future generations hinge.

People will be marching with a wide range of views and agendas, but as we prepare for this momentous and powerful event, here are five reasons the two of us will hit the streets of New York on Sunday.

Sandra Steingraber and Wenonah Hauter at a Cove Point rally in July.

1. Climate change requires bold, immediate action from political leaders. 

Studies indicate we are now fast approaching climate tipping points, after which extreme changes in global temperatures will no longer be preventable, setting us on a collision course with disaster. Temperature increases, for example, trigger dust storms and sooty Arctic wildfires that are darkening the snowfields of Greenland. In turn, darker snow absorbs more heat, and further increases air temperatures, triggering even more dust storms and wildfires. The result is a feedback loop of runaway warming. We can still intervene and avoid many such tipping points, which lie just ahead, but we can’t do so via delays, half-hearted efforts, or individual lifestyle changes alone. Current climate science warns that to have a “good” chance—that is, somewhat better than 50-50 odds—of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius requires a very rapid, system-wide transition off all fossil fuels, leaving most coal, oil, and gas underground. On Sunday we’ll be marching to call on our elected leaders—at all levels of government—to take bold and decisive action in line with the science before it is too late.

2. President Obama needs to be a climate leader – and climate leaders don’t promote fracking.

We appreciate President Obama’s recent decision to use executive action to address climate change, but the initiative he recently proposed—a set of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules to regulate power plants—are not nearly ambitious enough to solve the problem. Because these rules promote a switch from coal to fracked natural gas, they may even be counterproductive. Studies show that drilling and fracking operations leak methane, a super-charged greenhouse gas. So do pipelines and all the other pieces of infrastructure that process and carry the fracked gas. At best, only 40 percent of these leaks are fixable. A rapid build-out of fracking means an exponential increase in methane leaks, making natural gas at least as bad for the climate as coal—and maybe even worse, particularly in the critical short term. Further, the proposed rules also are overly modest in the goals they set for carbon dioxide reduction. These small cuts aren’t enough to make any substantial progress. On Sunday, we’ll be taking that message to New York City. We have also launched a petition with actor and activist Mark Ruffalo telling President Obama that any climate change solution cannot include fracking.

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3. New York is a base camp for the fight against fracking and climate change.

For the last four years, we’ve both been deeply involved with the state-wide coalition, New Yorkers Against Fracking in the efforts to ban fracking in New York. We have seen the movement grow—following the lead of grassroots groups who first sounded the call for a ban—from a place where fracking was all but inevitable to a place where Governor Cuomo recently acknowledged us as the most powerful mass movement in the state. It continues to be a David and Goliath struggle, but we’ve shown we can change the outcome through organizing, persistence and holding elected officials directly accountable for their actions. Those are the elements of our slingshot. When people come together, our collective power can beat back corporate interests, even big oil and gas. On Sunday, we’ll be marching to celebrate the power of organizing and to encourage people across the country to carry the never-give-up fighting spirit from New York’s anti-fracking movement to communities across the country.

4. The solutions to the climate crisis are within our reach. We seek to build the political will to implement them.

We often hear that we need to work within the system on incremental reforms in order to allow time for solutions to be developed, and that bold change is not feasible. Meanwhile, according to this worldview, natural gas obtained via fracking can serve as “bridge” or an “exit ramp” to allow time to transition to renewables. We are marching on Sunday to say that we don’t have time for metaphorical construction projects. And none are required. We can and must make the transition to renewable energy now—not 10 years from now, not 20 years from now – but now. That’s what the science mandates. The Secretary General of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization has warned, “The laws of physics are non-negotiable. We are running out of time.” By that, he does not mean “let’s build bridges out of fracked gas.”

Here’s the good news: an economy based on renewable energy is both economically and technically feasible. Solar is growing exponentially, wind resources are vast, and we possess the know-how to become more energy efficient. Professor Marc Jacobson at Stanford University and The Solutions Project has outlined a national plan to make this happen and state plans are in the works for all 50 states.

5. We can’t stop in New York—we need to take action in communities across the nation.

Finally, we’re marching to recruit people into the anti-fracking wing of the climate change movement and to encourage marchers to take what they’ve learned in the streets of Manhattan back home with them. We can only achieve bold, meaningful action to address climate change if we organize and build power in our communities and use that power to confront fossil fuel projects, challenge their investors and pressure our elected representatives to act on our behalf. The energy and inspiration we siphon from the People’s Climate March can help us continue the hard but critical work of organizing in frontline communities. There are anti-fracking measures on the ballot in multiple communities across the country and literally hundreds of state and local efforts happening across the country. And on Oct. 11, we’ll have a second opportunity to reunite. That day, people from around the globe will come together to call for a ban on fracking and a swift energy transition as part of third international Global Frackdown, the international day of action to ban fracking.

No matter how fracking and climate change impact you and your community, let’s march together in New York, take inspiration and energy back home, and work together to fight for a sustainable and vibrant future.

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