Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Post Factum: March

Still catching up: Exactly one month ago I participated in the People's Climate March in New York City. Without any hyperbole, it was AWESOME.

March turnout button

It should be noted I'm not one for ginormous crowds. I've attended a couple ticker tape parades, a couple Thanksgiving Day parades, a Christmas Tree lighting (which I regretted), a papal visit (which I really regretted) – but I've never gone to the Puerto Rican Day parade on Fifth Avenue nor to New Year's Eve in Times Square. But this was the friendliest, happiest, most peaceable crowd I've ever experienced in New York City. It also was by far the biggest march I've ever been in, but I never once felt uncomfortable. The spirit of the day was wonderful.

My day started at the ephemeral ice sculpture Dawn of the Anthropocene by Ligorano/Reese. It was a hot day, and I overheard the artists mutter The Future was melting too fast. How true. I wanted to come back and see how The Future was doing, but there was just too much to do, too little time.

The Future is melting

On my way to the assigned assembly area for my group, I kept seeing random signs, like this one spotted in the subway. The sightings greatly increased my anticipation!

Sign in subway

My group waited in the assembly area on 58th Street. And waited. And waited. The old campaigners began to surmise the initial crowd estimate of 100,000 must be a gross undercount and actual turnout must be much, much higher. So true! The young campaigners got tired and hungry, but plenty of people had brought plenty of provisions. We could have done the loaves and fishes thing and fed 5,000 with no problem. Not to mention this is NYC – there's no lack of places to get excellent take out. ::cough:: I got my snacks from Bouchon Bakery. They were very tasty.

Tired young campaigner

It was touching to see how many marchers had brought children with them and to hear others say they were there for the sake of their children or grandchildren. The shared sense of urgent, intergenerational mission was deeply affecting.

Then, suddenly, with a blast of shofars and other exhortations to action, we were off! It was exhilarating!


Along the way there were encouraging spectators, including this vuvuzuela player and company perched on the big rocks in Central Park.

Central Park

And there were encouraging spectators hanging out of windows, like these Bard students on Sixth Avenue. Hanging out of windows is a quintessential NYC tradition – and necessary for ticker tape parades. It made me feel like I was in a real NYC parade. I loved their signs, too.

Bard students

There even were a very few provocateurs, like these two guys. Most people ignored them.


It's difficult to give a sense of the scale of the march. Sixth Avenue (or Avenue of the Americas if you please) was full of people from sidewalk to sidewalk streaming from 59th Street to 42nd Street continuously for, I dunno, maybe four hours. My group sang a lot.

At Radio City

Many people who finished the march early did not want to leave. Instead, they doubled back to watch and encourage the rest of us. That got me hoping I might spot the Bike Bloc swordfish bikes, but I never did. I also wanted to attend the post-march festival on 11th Avenue, but I had barely enough time to get to an evening Religions for the Earth multifaith worship service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Thank goodness for the excellent NYC subway system!

The worship service made a marvelous end to a marvelous day. Also a long, hot day – people in the congregation who had walked the walk kept rubbing at the salt on their faces and nodding off, which I found endearing (and may have done myself). Cathedral artist in residence Paul Winter played. (A somewhat clueless woman sitting next to me exclaimed, "He's rather good!" Yes, and it was a privilege to hear him gratis.) A lot of important people spoke. I was enchanted by the two monumental phoenix sculptures by Xu Bing made of discarded construction material suspended from the cathedral ceiling. (They're so big, only one fits in the photo.)


Later that week, I talked with a few closet deniers who made snide remarks about overflowing garbage cans and auto emissions from traffic stopped by the march, as if such things somehow invalidate the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Such misdirection and over-scrupulosity almost don't merit a response, but FWIW, I've attended much smaller events that generated far more waste than this march. On the other hand, I was surprised when an eavesdropping stranger butted into such a conversation and solemnly thanked me for marching. As so many others have said, it's important for the sake of the children.

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