The People’s Climate March: What You Need to Know

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(Poster:"Winds of Change" by James Jean)

A version of this post first appeared at ThinkProgress.

For one week in late September, New York City will be the center of gravity in the fight to confront climate change.

On Sunday, Sept. 21, a climate march through midtown Manhattan will kick off a week of high-profile climate events in the Big Apple. Promoted as an effort to bring unprecedented attention to climate change, the gathering comes just as international climate negotiations ramp up in a major push toward a new global accord. The People’s Climate March, being called the “largest climate march in history” by organizers, will potentially draw over a hundred thousand people to walk through Manhattan and show a level of demand for action not seen since the era of Civil Rights marches and anti-Vietnam protests.

The day after the march, a United Nations summit on the climate crisis will bring together world leaders, business executives and activist groups in an attempt to galvanize action for a global climate deal to follow the Kyoto Protocol. While not an official UN negotiating session, leaders have been invited to announce “significant and substantial initiatives to help move the world toward a path that will limit global warming.”

The third major undertaking in this three-pronged climate attack is Climate Week NYC, from Sept. 22 to Sept. 28, the sixth annual iteration of the event that features around 100 events, activities and high-profile meetings across the city. It is put together by The Climate Group, which includes business and government organizations focusing on the rapid scale-up of low carbon energy and technology.

More than 1,000 organizations have pledged support for the People’s Climate March, including the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Wildlife Federation and the Earth Day Network. Students from more than 300 colleges and universities are expected to attend the march. While the leaders of China and India recently said they wouldn’t be attending the UN Summit, President Obama is expected to be there. Even if certain world leaders don’t show up for political or logistical reasons, governments and stakeholders across the world will be watching for serious movement on what has become a slowed-down or even stalled path toward an effective global climate treaty. This mass convergence of interested parties could provide a crucial step in breaking the bottleneck.

This is the hope of Bill McKibben, climate author and environmentalist turned activist, and co-founder of, who says the march is “an invitation to anyone who’d like to prove to themselves, and to their children, that they give a damn about the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced.”

Getting There

The Climate March commences at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21, at Columbus Circle on the south end of Central Park. While flying into New York may be the only option for some, organizers are offering a number of low-carbon transportation alternatives. The Sierra Club, one of the organizers of the event, is putting together a People’s Climate Train from the San Francisco area. There are climate buses departing from around the country. A ride share forum has also been set up on the march’s website. A group of extreme climate marchers currently most of the way through their trek across the country will even be taking a few days off to join the two-mile march.

Side Events

A number of other worthwhile events are being organized to bring attention to less-discussed climate issues.

  • The Converge for Climate Conference from Sept. 21 to Sept. 23, will focus on broadening the scope of climate action to include system-challenging solutions. “The root of the problem is an economic system that exploits people and the planet for profit,” state the organizers. “It is a system that requires constant growth, exploitation, warfare, racism, poverty and ever-increasing ecological devastation to function.” The opening plenary on Sunday, Sept. 21, will include hip hop artist Immortal Technique and Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, who will speak at the closing plenary.
  • The People’s Climate Justice Summit on Sept. 22 and Sept. 23, will convene community delegations to focus on the frontlines of climate change where the poor and vulnerable are often the hardest hit. The Summit delegates will convene at the UN Church Center, directly across the street from the UN, and the proceedings will be live-streamed for public viewing at The New School. The organizers argue that the UN Climate Summit represents the next step in the “corporate takeover of the UN climate negotiations.” They want to bring attention to the “indigenous peoples’ communities, communities of color and working-class white communities that are the first and most impacted by the storms, floods and droughts,” exacerbated by climate change.
  • The Religions For The Earth Conference will bring together more than 200 religious and spiritual leaders from across the world to gather at Union Theological Seminary from Sept. 19-21. On Sunday, after the climate march, a multi-faith service focused on climate change at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine will feature former Vice President Al Gore. The conference is part of the Climate Week events.

Where Else To Be

Trying to create an itinerary from this week of events can feel almost as overwhelming as trying to confront climate change itself. Aside from the Climate Week NYC calender, the People’s Climate March calender is a good way to keep track of everything that’s going on.

Inside Climate News also made a handy graphic pointing out the top places to be during Climate Week. Aside from the People’s Climate March, the UN Climate Summit and the Religions For The Earth Conference, the list includes:

Climate Doc: Disruption

Ahead of the march, a new film by, Disruption, was released on Sept. 7. The documentary looks at the consequences of ignoring climate change and aims to inspire people to join the march and the larger environmental movement. It includes interviews with well-known climate leaders such as Bill McKibben and Dr. James Hansen. You can watch it in its entirety below.

Remote Viewing

For those who can’t make it to the week-long undertaking, there are still a number of ways to stay involved. There will be coinciding marches in eight other cities worldwide, including London, Paris, Melbourne, Berlin and New Delhi. To get more info on these and other events that don’t take place in the Big Apple, check out’s listAs of early September, there were 63 other coinciding events scheduled in North America, six in South America, 54 in Europe, 10 in South Asia and 32 in Australia.

The UN Climate Summit will be broadcast live online. There will also be a major social media push, featuring the hashtags #climate2014#ClimateMarch and #PeoplesClimate on Twitter.

The Climate Reality Project will be holding its annual “24 Hours of Reality” event on Sept. 16 and Sept. 17 to “share 24 reasons to be hopeful about our future, and encourage everyone around the world to commit to a day of climate action.” The Guardian has also set up a page as part of their GuardianWitness program where participants can post pictures and stories about their experiences at the Climate March and associated events.

Keep In Mind

The point of the People’s Climate March is not to impose demands — in fact there are no specific demands associated with the march — but to show how the climate movement has come into the mainstream. No longer just an environmental issue, the demonstration has drawn support from labor unions, faith groups, schools, businesses, international NGOs, social justice groups, public health entities and more.

On top of breadth of interest it is also meant to display the urgency of the cause. Widely being compared to crucial moments along the march toward civil rights action and anti-war movements, the words of Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to action read as if they could’ve been written by an orator for this month’s event:

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.

The next official UNFCCC negotiating session will be at the UN climate conference in Lima, Peru in December. Leaders hope to set up a global agreement to be finalized a year later, at the 2015 session in Paris.

ari phillips
Ari Phillips is a reporter for A native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, he received his bachelor’s in philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and dual master’s degrees in journalism and global policy studies from the University of Texas at Austin. You can follow him on Twitter @re_ari.
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