Turks Take to the Streets, and the Sea, to Demand Action on Global Warming

istanbul climate action march photo

The "Sun, Wind, 350 Right Now" march in Istanbul. Photo by Jennifer Hattam.

On the morning of Oct. 24, Idil Özkarakaya brought students together to paint banners for the day's climate-action march in a symbolic location: the Istanbul neighborhood of Halkalı, one of the areas hardest-hit by September's devastating floods.High Atmospheric Levels of CO2 Contribute to Floods
"The children who live in this district witnessed the major flood in September, and it is them who know best what floods can cause," Özkarakaya wrote in an e-mail as she was planning the event. "I will explain them the reason the flood took place was because the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is too high. I will tell them that people all around the world are planning actions to warn world leaders about this, and will ask them to take action too, simply by painting the numbers."

istanbul protesters student rally photo

Participants in the Global Action Group rally (left) and students at Istanbul's Robert College. Photos by Jennifer Hattam (left) and Alexander Downs.

All around Turkey, people were indeed organizing protests and festivals, hikes for children, student rallies, and tree-planting actions. In the capital city of Ankara, a group of bicyclists hatched a plan to cycle to parliament to demand government action on global climate change, which is already threatening Turkey by contributing to floods and desertification in different parts of the country.

Silent Vigil for an Endangered Planet
In Istanbul, the International Day of Climate Action got off to a slow start, as just a handful of people gathered for a silent noon-time walk on İstiklal Caddesi, the popular pedestrian thoroughfare as well known for its regular weekend protests as its nightly party scene. Even with more participants, though, the impact of their silent vigil would likely have been drowned out by the ululating, bullhorn-wielding socialist protest for peace and women's rights that they crossed paths with along the way.

istanbul march solar powered guitar photo

Istanbul marchers' chants were accompanied by a solar-powered electric guitar.

But a few hours later, on the same street, a large crowd gathered for the day's big event, the "Sun, Wind, 350 Right Now" march organized by the Global Action Group, known by its Turkish acronym KEG. As in powder. After a rallying speech, participants hoisted bicycles, balloons, signs, and paper sunflowers over their heads, then marched down İstiklal chanting "Üç yüz elli hemen şimdi!" (350, right now!) and "Başka bir dünya mümkün" (Another world is possible) to the accompaniment of a solar-powered electric guitar.

'350 Right Now for Jobs, the Climate, and Justice'
Elsewhere in Istanbul, KEG activists and members of the Petroleum, Chemicals and Rubber Workers' Union of Turkey hung a giant banner reading "350 Right Now for Jobs, the Climate, and Justice" within view of drivers crossing the Bosphorus Bridge. On the Asian side of the city, windsurfers with the Istanbul Wind Surf Center painted the numbers 3, 5, and 0 on their sails and took to the waters of the Marmara Sea, sailing together to spell out "350" to draw attention to the danger global warming poses to the world's oceans. "This is our first environmental action, but hopefully not the last," said organizer Serhan Balcı.

istanbul kids 350 banners photo

Kids in Istanbul's Halkalı district paint banners for the International Day of Climate Action rally. Photo by Idil Özkarakaya.

Özkarakaya, the organizer of the sign-painting party, also saw the day's events as just the beginning for the young people she worked with. "I hope they will feel pretty good about themselves once they understand the part they took in a such a widespread organization," she said. "If we, as 350.org Turkey, can make a difference, the experience they will have had by being part of this event could affect their perspectives all throughout their lives."

More on the International Day of Climate Action and 350.org:
Readers, Send Us Your International Day of Climate Action Photos
Good Morning New Zealand! First Images From International Day of Climate Action
Playing the Climate Wild Card: The Global Movement for 350
Get involved with the Copenhagen Climate Summit Via 350.org
THTV: Bill McKibben On 350, Winning Change & Encouraging Signs
On Global Climate Change: Demand 350, Demand Organic
Via Spectacular Aerial Art, 350.org Tells Climate Negotiators Time is Ticking

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