One estimate put the number of marchers at the NYC Peoples’ Climate March at 310,000, “more or less”, but this number does not do justice to the diverse, creative, determined and joyful quality to this gathering of humanity in the face of the dire threat of cataclysmic climate chaos within a generation. Jaime Mariqueo and I began the day at dawn in Central Park for a Sunrise Ceremony of Indigenous Peoples gathered in NYC, attended by about 200 people. 7 representatives from various regions of the world led prayers, chants, songs and respectful meditations of the four directions in a ceremony that lasted for a couple of hours. This was followed by a sumptuous breakfast of tamales, fruit, cereals and yogurt, with cafe con leche, served out on the grass. Jaime and I took advantage to meet indigenous representatives from Brazil, Peru, Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador and Turtle Island (North America). The only mar in the morning’s “centering” activity was a woman walking her dog who asked “What is going on here?” and when one of the indigenous participants explained about the climate change talks taking place and the role of the first peoples in caring for Mother Earth and the climate, the woman said: What are you talking about? Only God can influence the climate.” Then she said: “how dare you come here to our park to practice witchcraft.” I could scarcely believe my ears. The woman had what sounded like the accent of an educated British person, but was speaking with such racism and ignorance! My old acquaintance since the days of the protests in Cancun against the WTO, Jimbo, calmed the indignation of a few persons nearby with his comment: “We must pray for her.”
The indigenous were in the front of the march and we started off at 11:30 sharp. It was a massive, glorious march with the avenues and streets full up as far as the eye could see. The moments of silence a minute to 1 p.m. followed by a full minute of full volume cries of alarm about the crisis of Mother Earth wer unforgettable. The diversity and creativity of the marchers was beyond description, and the overall mood was upbeat, inspired and joyful. We ran into comrades of struggle, delegations of women from Central America and Asia leading chants together, Buddhist monks from Asia drumming with whom I drummed for a while too, Big banners read: Indigenous Rights are Good for Everyone! We were shocked upon arriving at the end point of the march at around 2;15 p.m. to hear that the last ranks of the march had not even left the starting point! Large screens projected images of marches happening around the world, from Melbourne to Tokyo, from New Delhi to London, etc… Some 2,640 events around the world had been identified. Event organizers estimated the numbers of marchers at 400,000. Even splitting the difference, we were a crowd more or less of 345,000, the biggest climate justice march in history!
As we sat on the large stretch of 11th Avenue afterwards, some of us decried the position of the US government toward the official talks at the UN on climate, the announcement by President Obama that since something more substantive could not be agreed upon, at least there would be goals set to be achieved voluntarily. This is actually a deep betrayal to the people of the world, continuing decades of foot dragging by the U.S., the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. One idea that emerged: why should we allow crimes committed against Mother Nature to go unpunished? Given the severity of climate chaos already upon us, why should we not define all crimes against Mother Nature to be Crimes against Humanity, and have them brought to the International Criminal Court in the Hague?