By George Payne with Rochester People’s Climate Coalition and Gandhi Earth Keepers International
People Power is a beautiful thing. As 190 nations gather in Paris this week to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, on an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon in November nearly 500 citizens in Rochester marched in solidarity with their local, regional, and global leaders. Rochester was not alone. An estimated 50,000 people took part in a march in London, there were enormous climate justice masses in the Philippines, major protests in the Marshall Islands, large demonstrations in Uganda, and even marches across glaciers in south Chile. Over 45,000 people set a city record when they gathered in Sydney, Australia! The demand for action has been the same everywhere. We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We must stop digging for fossil fuels. We must replace our carbon emitting industries with new infrastructures based on renewables. This clear and profound message was heard both inside and outside the hallowed sanctuary of Rochester’s most historic religious institution. It was heard beneath the formidable sandstone turrets of City Hall, and in front of the office building where Frederick Douglas published the North Star. It was also heard loud and clear beyond the marble corridors of the Federal Building, on top of the granite steps of the Liberty Pole, and through the paneled mirrors of Bank of America. It was even heard in the long, dense, rectangular shadow of Xerox. Everywhere we walked our message was heard. It was heard all the way past Court Street to the Hall of Justice and then back to the church where it all began.
Some people wonder why we march. I marched because there is absolutely nothing that is worth more to my children then the environment. This is what bonds us to ourselves, to our loved ones, to our neighbors and fellow citizens, and even to complete strangers on the other side of the world. Without the Earth we are nothing but separated atoms lost in a deep void. In the words of Wendell Berry, “The Earth is what we all have in common.” What better reason to march than to push our leaders to take urgent and purposeful action on climate change in Paris at the COP21. Without revolutionary progress this time around, when it is all said and done there will be nothing left which holds us together. It is that serious.