History in the Making: the Philadelphia Delegation to the People’s Climate March

People's Climate March will be taking place this Sunday, September 21 in New York City.

guest post by 350Philadelphia

With the biggest climate march in history taking place this weekend in New York City, one of over 2,200 similar events happening worldwide on September 21, you can be sure that the foreordained “Greenest City in America” isn’t just idling on the sidelines.

Mayor Nutter has endorsed the march, making but one request of his attending constituents: “Please don’t leave your energy in New York City. Bring it home to Philadelphia with you and come back reenergized and committed to working on solutions here.” If the rally yesterday was any indication of the building movement for a sustainable future, Philadelphia is certainly in for an exciting future.

Five days before the march, Philadelphians took to the streets near City Hall to call attention to the over 65 local coalition groups that have come together for climate justice. And this time, it’s not just college kids and middle-class environmental groups—labor unions, faith institutions, business owners, parents, immigrants and frontline communities have come together under this movement for global action, because ultimately, climate affects us all.

Although, as pointed out by ACTION United member Terry King, the impacts are disproportionate. “Environmental issues such as flooding, increased asthma rates and pollution impact low-income communities and people of color more than any other group of people in the city. Fighting climate change and environmental injustice is important to ACTION United, which is why we’re going to the People’s Climate March in New York City. We want to show the UN and President Obama that we need action to stop climate change and reverse environmental injustice.”

This sentiment of necessity was echoed by representative John Braxton of the Faculty and Staff Federation of the Community College of Philadelphia: “There will be no jobs on a dead planet. We understand that the labor movement and the climate justice movement must work together to achieve our common goals of a livable environment and good jobs for all.”

Local business owner Akil Marsh of Solar States agrees: “Whether you want more renewable energy, good paying jobs, locally sourced food or a fair banking system, tackling climate change can help alleviate these related issues.”

The multitude of Philadelphia organizations that have endorsed the March will have their work cut out for them, as nonprofits and locally vested for-profits have a shared interest and commitment to the viability of a local-living economy. Jamie Gauthier, executive director of the Sustainable Business Network, says on behalf of their 400+ membership, “Business will not only play an enormous role in staving off climate change through the adoption of sustainable practices; it will be business that develops the innovations, products, services and technologies needed to keep climate change at bay.”

But perhaps the most emotionally compelling contingent represented in the coalition is Interfaith Power & Light. According to rabbi Lauren Grabelle of the Herrmann Kol Tzedek West Philadelphia Synagogue, “As a person of faith and a spiritual leader, I believe it is our responsibility to do all we can to bring about justice and to live in peace with our earth. There is no issue more important for all of us to come together on—Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, non-believers. And there is nothing more hopeful than the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people marching together for climate justice. I believe that the People’s Climate March can help to generate the hope, solidarity and political will that are needed in order for us to build a just world and to protect future generations.”

Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be marching alongside citizens to show solidarity with those seeking protection from the interests of private megacorporations and fossil-fuel giants. For years, progress towards a sustainable future with clean energy, efficient transport and good jobs has been hindered, and people around the globe are making sure that our leaders know that the time is over for half-solutions that work for the wealthy few. Philadelphia, along with masses from across the globe, must demand climate justice now.

story by Jen Hombach