New York Rises for Climate, Jobs, and Justice

BY CATHERINE CHOJNOWSKI

The sounds of people chanting and rhythmic drum beats filled the streets of the Financial District on the evening of September 6th. Thousands of New York residents, young and old, joined together for three fundamental causes: climate, jobs, and justice.

 PHOTO: Cat Chojnowski / BLENDED

PHOTO: Cat Chojnowski / BLENDED

The Peoples Climate Movement March in NYC was the first of several actions and protests in a global series of mobilizations in anticipation of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. Despite the blazing heat and threat of thunderstorms, over a hundred organizations participated in the NYC March and created a turnout of over 3,000 people, leaving a strong precedent for future actions. The event was centered around three core demands, which encompassed the specific demands of various organizations that participated in more general terms: one hundred percent renewable energy now, halt all fossil fuel infrastructure, and make corporate polluters pay.

These three core demands encapsulated almost all of the climate fights happening throughout the state of New York — the halt all fossil fuel infrastructure demand in support of the groups fighting to stop the constructions of pipelines, power plants, and many other projects that expand oil and gas reliance in the state of New York; the make polluters pay demand is reflective of several groups' demands, namely the Climate and Community Protection Act proposed by New York Renews; and the one hundred percent renewable energy demand echoes the demands of nearly all of the organizations that participated. Under these three core principles, the organizations merged together to demand action from elected officials, specifically Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

 PHOTO: Cat Chojnowski / BLENDED

PHOTO: Cat Chojnowski / BLENDED

Another aspect of the climate change crisis that was emphasized at the PCM event was the impact climate change has on low-income communities, working-class communities, and communities of color, which are often most vulnerable to the damaging effects of the climate crisis.

These changes are only possible if we ground our work in a commitment to climate justice. This means acknowledging that a system that puts profit over people is threatening all life on Earth. It means ensuring that communities of color, indigenous and low-income people, and others most immediately threatened by the climate crisis are in the forefront of building our movement, identifying problems, and developing solutions. It means addressing the inequality in access to the resources needed to deal with the challenges of climate change. It means a just transition to a sustainable economy and, good, union jobs. It means that our work for climate justice cannot be separated from the struggles for racial, gender, economic and social justice, and peace. It means that as we fight to preserve the commons we also work to expand democracy.
— “Our Vision,” Peoples Climate Movement NY website
 PHOTO: Cat Chojnowski / BLENDED

PHOTO: Cat Chojnowski / BLENDED

When we think of climate change, we associate the phenomenon with devastation, and rightfully so. However, the march also brought attention to the fact that on the flip side, many of us fail to see that there is much opportunity in the climate crisis moving forward. The concept of a "Green New Deal" addresses both the nation's financial and climate crisis, simultaneously.

"If we start to think on that scale, then we can begin to imagine the possibilities of jobs created from solar, wind, and renewable energy in general," says Patrick Houston, the climate and inequalities campaign organizer at New York Communities for Change, an organization that has been a partner of Peoples Climate Movement since 2014. Through this partnership, the 25-year-old Philadelphia native became one of the event's main organizers.

 PHOTO: Cat Chojnowski / BLENDED

PHOTO: Cat Chojnowski / BLENDED

"There are so many people… that are concerned about where we are as a nation, but unfortunately many people don't recognize what they can do about it," explains Houston.

"They don't recognize the power they have, the power of their voice -- they don't recognize the responsibility that elected officials have to respond to them, and they don't recognize ability to expose elected officials for their shortfalls. They don't recognize their ability to call out corporations for their self-interested actions that prioritize their profits over the well-being of a lot of people."

And, while the march has ended, the fight lives on. One of the ongoing actions emphasized at the event was Call Cuomo Mondays," where every Monday New York residents would call Governor Cuomo's office to voice their concerns and demand that he halts all fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Text "cuomomondays" to 698-66 to receive weekly text reminders to participate in Call Cuomo Mondays and information on the campaign of the week.

Visit Peoples Climate Movement to find out about upcoming events and other ways to participate in the movement.

Lead Image Credit: Cat Chojnowski / BLENDED

Team Blended