50,000 people marched in London. 20,000 people in Ottawa. And last year in New York, 400,000 people came together to let world leaders know that people want to end our reliance on and destruction by fossil fuels. That’s why I stood on the south lawn of Los Angeles City Hall yesterday along with a few hundred others who had arrived to demonstrate for the climate one day prior to the UN climate change conference in Paris (COP21). I grabbed a sign painted by volunteers; I cheered as the rally began; I listened to passionate speeches about the causes and effects of climate change; I was pumped.
An hour later I was not as pumped. In fact, I was getting restless. Another hour after that we began our march, once around the block on the sidewalk, and I had to force out the catchy “Hey ho! Fossils fuels have got to go!” feeling uninspired and worried that this represented the entire movement. Though momentum and hope grow worldwide for the climate movement, the rally in Los Angeles left something to be desired.
Climate change is upon us; immediate effects can already be seen in the droughts, melting ice, and precipitating mass extinctions. Even best case predictions foretell a future of devastation for plants and animals and hardships for most of the population. In case you need a brush-up on the complicated and nuanced issues like I did before venturing out onto the city hall lawn, the New York Times recently published a concise Q&A on climate change and Al Jazeera produced a mini-documentary exploring the growing movement. And the movement must grow if we are to convince our local and world leaders to take action at the COP21 conference and beyond.
Looking around at the faces in the crowd gathered in downtown LA I felt hope in what I saw. I wasn’t surrounded by environmental activists or college students or members of a union. I was surrounded by families, couples, groups of friends, people of all backgrounds, old, young, in suits, with purple hair, even adorable dogs. Though this rally and march didn’t bring out even a fraction of the numbers others did, it brought out a representation of those that care about the state of our environment: just about everyone. Organizations like 350.org are driving the mobilization of ordinary people who are concerned about the future of the planet and wish to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change from affecting their children and children’s children. Worldwide, it seems to be working and we can find excitement and hope in the money being divested away from coal and oil and into wind and solar. We can feel hope in a report that lays out a plan to be on 100% renewable energy by 2030. The question that remains is, will it be enough?
“Let’s march!” yelled a woman a few yards behind me and I had to agree with her. Though eager and sympathetic, the crowd was not impassioned and began to fade. Many left. The science is clear and our moment is now. And this kind of activism isn’t going to do it. We can do better Los Angeles.