Worldwide demonstrations link warming & extreme weather
When I showed up at Battery Park just after 11:00 am last Saturday, the crew was already assembled. Volunteers, organizers and activists with 350.org were gathered around a giant parachute with lettering that read 'NYC Underwater'. Weathering the misty rain, they sang a refrain from "New York, New York" and mugged for photos. Here's one:
Thanks to climate change, sea levels are rising unexpectedly rapidly. Here, all around the little island of Manhattan, they've risen 8 inches since the beginning of last century. If warming continues at the expected rate, it may only be a matter of decades before this spot will be underwater.
That, Phil Aroneanu, co-founder and US campaign director of 350.org, was why they'd chosen this spot, surrounded by water, the backdrop a faintly fog-obscured Statue of Liberty.
"There's only so much sea wall you can build before the water goes over those sea walls," he said. "We're proud to be here representing New York," he added.
The action at Battery Park was one of many taking place concurrently around the world—over 1,000 rallies in 100 different nations were staged in support of 'Connect the Dots', a 350-led effort to highlight the link between climate change and extreme weather events and other real-world impacts. Participants were encouraged to send in photos, which 350.org collected at its website. The end result is a colorful real of international climate action. Here, for example, are citizens in Lebanon calling for more bike-friendly laws and infrastructure:
Students in Lancaster standing amidst wreckage caused by tornadoes.
Here, a Pakistani family demonstrates in front of their home, which was destroyed in the record flooding that climate change helped exacerbate.
This crew in Mongolia highlighted a river that has dried up thanks to drought.
In Boston, activists handed out subway maps with the trains swapped out for ferries; mass transit in a water-logged metropolis.
There were hundreds more—check out more photos from around the world at 350.org's homepage or ClimateDots.org. The scale of the event is rather extraordinary, but, as usual, the media has largely passed it over. Thousands of people worldwide working in unison to communicate the urgency of the climate problem doesn't pass for news, evidently.
But it should. And that's why these folks are working to draw attention to the immediate impacts of climate change. Caroline Cowley, a 350 volunteer at the New York action, explained, "It's important that we talk about how this is effecting us now. The devastation is happening now." Especially important, she says, is getting politicians to take notice here in the U.S., where inaction has blocked climate progress abroad, and where leaders aren't taking the issue seriously. They should start paying attention to young people for a change, Cowley says.
"We're going to be the biggest voting bloc in 2016," she says. "Nobody is listening to us yet, and it's incredible. And not in a good way."