INSS at the People’s Climate March

INSS at the People’s Climate March

Post written by Helene Hilger

How many INSSers attended the People’s Climate March? I rode with a Sierra Club-chartered bus to attend the march, arriving about three hours before the start on Sunday morning. I thought INSS members would enjoy hearing about how the march line-up was organized. For about 20 blocks organizations were invited to set up tables along the sidewalk, and marchers could stroll along and find the group they wanted to march with. Many groups offered tee shirts, stickers or posters with their message or logo. What were the largest contingents? Indigenous peoples – YOUTH – and groups devoted to food themes! Everything from organic food to vegan advocacy, to healthy soil. I even saw one poster for something near and dear to my heart – anaerobic digestion!

People's climate march groups, from used under their Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

People’s climate march groups, from used under their Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

I marched with the Environmental Defense Fund, which was there along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, National Wildlife, and other environmental organizations. I guess the “economics” of sustainability were represented by the anti-corporate groups as well as the socialist and communist parties.

This method of organizing the march made for an interesting spectacle for on-lookers (who were numerous and had their OWN signs and messages of commiseration!). The marchers passed in waves of themes, almost like the “triple bottom line” walking by! This organizing strategy truly made the point about how intricately climate change impacts society – from youth marching for inter-generational equity; to indigenous cultures reflecting the impacted relative to the CO2 generators; and the anti-nuclear contingent steadfast in their opposition despite the tantalizing (but dangerous) appeal of reducing our carbon footprint.

People's climate march, photo by Annette Bernhardt used under a Creative Commons license (

People’s climate march, photo by Annette Bernhardt used under a Creative Commons license (

This was not a particularly contentious march. Many of the signs were pretty snarky but the people were not. There were many seniors and many young families walking. The youth contingents from colleges and universities across the US were enormous, which was heartening. But even as we were drawn together in conversation or a shared laugh at a funny sign, we knew that we represented only one side of a contentious national debate. To give voice to the absurdity of the “debate” was a whole block of marchers devoted to “scientists,” with a rolling blackboard showing some of the familiar climate curves. So as much as it was tempting to feel unified, we knew that upon returning home, we would find that there were many who did not share our sense of urgency. Of course, this inability to work on difficult problems through our government system is a social problem of the highest order and one that most people would agree is unsustainable.

If you want to see some good photos from the March, I liked the ones available at the Daily Kos: Climate-March-Sept-21-Long-Photo-Diary?detail=email

My favorite comment for the day was from my son, who when I wrote and told him I was going said: “Whoa! That’s a long way to travel for something that only 97% of studies agree on!”

About the top picture: members of our NC contingent in front of the “Scientists” block sign. North Carolina sent seven buses to NYC. Helene’s included students who had driven from UNC Greensboro and Clemson, and we paid $25 each, because Sierra Club underwrote much of the expense. App State students filled two other buses and paid $140 each to attend the march!