People’s Climate March

A Day Like Any Other

On Sunday September 21st, thousands of people gathered in New York City for the People’s Climate March; I was one of them.

For me, the day started out like any other: I woke up, I got dressed, I got some coffee and breakfast, and then I met Al Gore.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t like any other day. But that’s a great way to start an article.

I had gone up to New York City from Princeton to join Union Theological Seminary in the People’s Climate March. My partner, Ross, is a student at Union and we had decided a few weeks ago that we were going to march together with the interfaith contingent.

When we walked down into Union’s beautiful cloistered quad with my breakfast and coffee in hand, I turned to my right to see a man in dark blue jeans and a polo shirt, getting his picture taken with different folks who had arrived early. I turned to Ross and said, “That’s Al Gore!”

<em>Me and Al Gore</em>, Haley Cohen, all rights reserved
Me and Al Gore, Haley Cohen
It’s weird seeing someone that famous in person. The first thing I thought was: he’s not as tall as I expected him to be. The second thing I thought was: would it be weird to get a picture with Al Gore?

After watching him shake hands with interfaith leaders from across the world (including an Eskimo from Greenland), this earth loving seminarian walked up to the 45th Vice President of the United States, founder of Alliance for Climate Protection, star of “An Inconvenient Truth” and awkwardly asked for a photo.

And that’s how I got my photo taken with Al Gore.

Why I Went to NYC

But that’s not why I had gone to New York City. I came to march. I came to rise up with thousands of people with one goal; to make the world wake up and realize that climate change is real, that it is not just going to go away, and that we have to come together to make changes to the unsustainable ways we live.

I am tired of Christians using the Bible as an excuse to destroy the earth’s resourcesAs a seminarian, I also came to march because I am tired of Christians using the Bible as an excuse to destroy the earth’s resources, to abuse animals, to make irreversible changes to our environment because they believe God gave them “dominion” over all of it. I wanted to march to say, “No more!” to all those who believe God gave them the earth to use and abuse for their own “benefit” while neglecting long-term problems and the ignoring the dramatic changes to our environment. 

The Interfaith Block

When we got to West 60th Street by Columbus Circle to be part of the interfaith block of marchers, we were met by a mass of people of all walks of faith and none: Methodists, The Grail, Hare Krishnas, Muslims, Jews, Presbyterians, Hindus, Atheists, Spiritual Seekers, Seminarians and so many more. People were gathered together by religious affiliation but there was a lot of floating around, looking at different signs, conversing with, dancing with, and meeting other groups. 

I wandered down the block to take a few pictures but there were so many people packed into the block that I could not go very far. But I did see a gigantic minaret and a big wooden ark. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of signs that mentioned flooding and the ark. There were tons of signs calling for reduction of fossil fuels, for climate justice, and for action for a better future. There was even a man walking around with a sign that said “I can’t swim” and a woman dressed as Gaia with leaves in her hair that flowed down her dress. My favorite person was a man who I deemed “kale man” because he walked around handing out kale leaves to people waiting to march.

There was a great spiritual energy on the block; I felt like I was walking on Holy ground.There was singing, there was dancing, there was laughing, and there was so much hope. It was wonderfully overwhelming. There was a great spiritual energy on the block; I felt like I was walking on Holy ground. It was incredible to be surrounded by such a diverse group of people with such varying beliefs but with one common goal: to end climate change and to care for creation. 

I Never Got to March, and it Didn’t Matter

The funny part of the whole “march” was that I never got to march. We had to wait two hours longer to march than we had expected because they had more people march than anticipated and I had to leave to get a train back to Princeton to go to work right before we got moving. 

But it didn’t matter.

When we were getting antsy while we were waiting to move, one of the professors from Union Theological Seminary said that it was a good thing that we were not marching because it meant that there were thousands upon thousands of people marching before us. And there were. The official website for the People’s Climate March said that 400,000 people attended. To be part of that, even if only for two hours being surrounded by people of faith working towards one goal, putting aside all differences of belief and theology, to call for action on the part of our government and our world leaders, was worth it. 

While there was so much joy and excitement, there was also some skepticism. What difference was this going to make? Were people going to listen? Did people even know this was happening?

Standing Up For Change 

<em>Ross and me waiting to march</em>, Haley Cohen
Ross and me waiting to march, Haley Cohen
And, honestly, I don’t know what difference it’s going to make but I knew I had to be there. I knew that by going I could then talk to my friends and my family about what I did that day. Yes, I didn’t march, but I did stand up for something that I believe in. I stood up for this one planet we call home that I believe God gave us to serve and preserve, to protect and to nourish, not to drain and abuse. I stood up for the poor who are hurt by our systems of ecological oppression. I stood up for the people whose health and well-being are negatively effected by coal mining, fracking, nuclear power, and oil refineries. I stood up for future generations who will inherit this planet that we have so horribly neglected for too long.

And if we’ve learned anything from history, standing up for what you believe in is the first step to change. So, yes, I didn’t march, but I stood up.


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