Olivia Arigho Stiles reports on the People’s Climate March.
Around 30,000 people marched from Temple to the Houses of Parliament in London yesterday on the People’s Climate March. Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and actor Emma Thompson addressed the assembled crowds. Thompson asserted the need for boycotts as a mechanism of protest against polluting businesses.
The march was part of a worldwide series of demonstrations ahead of the UN summit on climate change in New York on Tuesday, and saw over 2,500 coordinated events in more than 150 countries. A stunning 400,000 marched in New York, where U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Al Gore were in attendance.
The run-up to the march had show-cased a slick publicity campaign, with ubiquitous advertisements on New York public transportation crowd funded by Avaaz, one of the groups which helped organise the march.
The march demonstrates the strength in building broad-based populist movements. The Green Party, Friends of the Earth and Fossil Free had a strong presence while the relative scarcity of leftist groups (aside from Left Unity) and trade unions perhaps suggests a need to relocate environmental politics within revolutionary political movements. One anonymous marcher who had asked for an RS21 leaflet expressed his support for a low carbon economy but thought this was possible through a reform of business, rather than structural economic change.
Jonathan Neale, author of Stop Global Warming: Change the World, argued ‘This is a turning point. The march in New York was at least 310,000 people, the largest climate protest in world history. For the last five years, since Copenhagen, the climate movement has been down. Now we’re back, and back as never before. We have another national march on March 7th in London, and months to build it – we want it bigger than this one. And then we want global action at the time of the Paris climate talks in December 2015, with university occupations all round the world. It’s possible, and maybe, just maybe, we can actually stop climate chaos.’
Ultimately, the size and nature of the march indicates the broad populist desire to tackle climate change on a global scale. It also highlights the need for green issues to urgently shift from the margins to the centre of revolutionary theory and praxis, and also the potential in infusing climate change campaigns with a revolutionary thrust.