The sheer number of people alone, though, didn't make this march unique. What did is the diversity of groups that showed up, marching together to demand that world leaders do more than just talk about stopping climate change. Labor unions, religious groups, students, celebrities and business leaders were all there that Sunday. Strange bedfellows perhaps, but since we all share the same world, and there continues to be more proof indicating that humans are changing the climate than proof we're not, it shouldn't be too surprising that more people are recognizing the need to do something to stop it - regardless of what side of the temperature gage you line up on.
Early projections indicated that there might be 100,000+ participants in the March - far short of the actual turnout -- but it was still being characterized as a catalyst to re-energize the environmental movement. While various environmental groups - including the Sierra Club - could point to successfully shutting down further production of coal plants, the halt of the Keystone pipeline, and even the recent EPA announcements around emissions as signs of progress, what they couldn't point to was a high level of diversity. For years, the environmental movement had grown to be characterized as mostly a white, educated, upper middle class to upper class endeavor. Not a purposeful characterization, but that's what happened. Then something occurred along the green way to change that -- Hurricane Sandy.
People of color, janitors, garbage collectors, nurses, different religious groups all were affected as a result of the storm's impact on the most populated area of the United States. This was no longer a problem for people in far off countries. This was a problem that hit us at home.
During the run up to the March, we were focusing on finding and telling the stories of the real people affected by climate change. Not just those who either lost homes during Sandy and those who helped neighbors or entire communities deal with the aftermath, but coal miners battling the effects of black lung disease, American Indians whose reservation lands are being affected by fracking, and working poor living in flood zones. Whether you believe in climate change or not, once you hear how real people are being impacted by human caused changes to their immediate environment, you realize that only a movement of global proportions will help reverse the situation.
So what happens now? How to harness the energy of these hundreds and thousands of people who are the tip of the iceberg of those who are either personally affected or who want to be sure they and their children are not? The groups that worked to put the event together must continue to work together. But more importantly, the messages they convey have to be one of hope rather than one of fear and foreboding. There are solutions already being pursued. There is progress being made. There is movement and that movement is made up of us all.