They marched, and the world took notice. Over 400,000 people rallied on the streets of New York City in the People’s Climate March on September 21 to urge for action against climate change. As the largest climate protest in history, the march coalesced environmental advocates from across the world and drew students and celebrities alike, bringing to attention that climate change is not just an environmental problem but also a human issue that affects people globally.
More than a mass spectacle, the People’s Climate March was a wake-up call for international leaders to take bolder steps to address the imminent dangers of global warming and create a more sustainable future. Two days later, the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, convened with world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York to strategize a collective plan for environmental action.
"... climate change is not just an environmental problem but also a human issue that affects people globally."
Nonetheless, while countries fight against climate change, they are also the very contributors to the global problem. The leading producers of greenhouse gas emissions are China, the United States, the European Union, and India. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the world produced a total of 46 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in 2010 - a 35 percent increase from 1990 - and the global output has only been steadily increasing over the years.
Recent environmental shifts have no longer made climate change an invisible issue but a global crisis. The past decade was the warmest on record, as global temperatures have increased by two degrees Celsius over the year. Long-term drought has hit across California and the Southwest, while scarce rain leaves groundwater at historic lows in northeast and central China. In the northern Pacific, communities in the Marshall Islands face the risk of sinking under water as sea levels gradually continue to rise every year.
The People’s Climate March was a stark reminder that we all live in an evolving landscape, one that should prompt a change in perspective. In a way, the march shifted public focus from climate change to ourselves, forcing us to reconsider the impact of our own everyday actions. As a start, we need to remedy the deep environmental damage that has already been done.
Most of all, the spectacular turnout of the march spoke to the power of collective action, bringing home the message that the climate change is a global issue that requires a global effort. In reality, as shown through the trash left behind by the marchers, we all in fact contribute to the problem in some way. But what’s more important is that we can now be part of the solution, starting with the simple lifestyle choices we make.
Photo courtesy of John Minchillo/Associated Press; Sean Venkman/Twitter