While Leonardo Dicaprio and Sting joined the New York contingent of yesterday’s record-breaking global march on climate change, approximately 300 Nelsonites paraded through downtown with aims of disrupting global warming and the infrastructure that causes it.
The worldwide day of action was designed to raise awareness in the days leading up to global leaders convening at the UN General Assembly in New York, where Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be hosting a summit on climate change.
Members of the Nelson faction of the global movement were thrilled by its success on Sunday.
“I was a university grad right at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970. It struck me then that it was so logical not to pollute the environment that was our living room,” said Michael Jessen, a member of the Nelson chapter of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby.
“Now I have a 24-year-old daughter and I’m concerned about her ability to live in safe and healthy world.”
Jessen and a number of other activists gave speeches, and musical accompaniment was provided, before the marchers swept into traffic and marched through downtown. While some motorists met the parade with honks of support, others were clearly upset by the hoopla.
“We took over the streets and disrupted business as usual. The cars had to stop for us. People were watching. And that’s the only way we’re going to have meaningful change, is if people stop and think,” said Montana Burgess, and organizer with Kootenays for a Pipeline Free BC.
“People need to understand that climate change is one, a food security issue, two, an environmental issue, three, a wildlife issue and four, an intergenerational issue,” she said.
“The reason I care is I was raised in a trailer park for the beginning of my life. I lived really close to the poverty line, and I understood firsthand what unfair felt like. I went to demonstrations, Earth Day and stuff like that, and it’s just been a part of my upbringing. It wasn’t until I was a little older and went off to university that I started student organizing around environmental stuff.”
Burgess said she’s been passionate about the environment from a young age, which led to her seeking her current job as operations manager of an organization called Climate Action Network. She said she’s been following the news carefully in the days leading up to the assembly, and was horrified to learn Stephen Harper wouldn’t be in attendance.
“Our prime minister has decided not to go. 120 heads of state from all over the world will be there, but he won’t be. It shows that he doesn’t care about climate change. He doesn’t think it’s a real issue. And if you look at the Conservatives’ record, it shows that they don’t think climate change is a real threat.”
But according to the organizers of the event, climate change is a looming and urgent threat that needs to be addressed.
“Fossil fuel generated climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity,” said Keith Wiley of Kootenays for a Pipeline-Free BC.
“Only a massive public movement will push governments to cut back on oil, gas and coal and move to a life-sustaining clean energy future. This global action helps us get going.”
Yesterday’s events were held in over 166 countries, with 310,000 people on the streets of New York, 30,000 participating in Melbourne, Australia and more than 10,000 in Berlin.
Once the parade reached Nelson United Church, organizers welcomed approximately 100 people to the Nelson United Church, where they screened a film called Disruption.
“People were pretty emotional by the end. They got excited, which is great. I was sobbing in the back, because the movie is so powerful. I didn’t expect it to affect me that way. I was already on board,” said Burgess.
“We are not living sustainably,” said Jessen. “On August 19 this year we had used up all the resources that this planet could replenish in a year. So from August 2014 until the end of the year, we’re living on earth’s credit. That’s not a sustainable scenario. We need to change the way we run our economy, we need to change the way we run our social systems and we need to do it quickly.
The film shown at the event, Disruption, can be watched for free online at watchdisruption.com.