The People March: A Time for Climate Action
by Larry K. Fried

As autumn begins, the news that this summer was the hottest on record globally is official. Here in the Willamette Valley we felt the heat, with a record 35 days topping 90 degrees in Eugene, and very dry conditions. Smoke from nearby  wildfires often filled our skies and our lungs.

Climate Change is not a far-off problem, it is a present reality for the entire world. Drought conditions, melting glaciers, risings seas, and frequent extreme weather events are already here, and it is only going to get worse with the continuing rise in greenhouse gas emissions.  Although some geographical areas and peoples are more vunerable than others, nowhere and no one is immune. Political and business leaders around the world must act NOW to address climate change with bold steps that are sufficient to meet the greatest challenge the world has ever known.  That is essentially the message of the more than 400,000 September 21st People’s Climate Marchers in New York City, and hundreds of thousands of others who marched in solidarity in 166 countries and thousands of cities.

350.org and Avaaz were the initiating organizations behind the protest, but they were joined by literally thousands of partner groups from all over the USA and around the world. The NYC march was led by indigenous groups, followed by front line groups - those peoples who are most vunerable to the effects of climate change.  350Eugene was the group that organized the rally and solidarity march of about 400 protesters in Eugene.

These marches were in anticipation of the UN Climate Summit 2014, also in New York City, where 120 heads of state met for the first time on topic since the Copenhagen Summit, five years earlier.  The purpose of this meeting on September 23 was not to negoiate a climate agreement, but to foster the political will and mobilize action in preparation for the UN Climate Framework Convention of 2015 in Paris. The ultimate goal of the Paris convention is to reach a meaningful world wide climate agreement by the end of 2015 that all countries, particularly the biggest emitters will sign on to.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who joined the NYC marchers,  asked world leaders to come to this week’s summit to announce bold actions that they will be taking in their respective countries.  Moon had also called upon business leaders to engage on various areas of action initiatives or demonstrate leadership on carbon pricing.

What the many countries pledged is sigificant for its breath, if not its depth – that is, it is not nearly enough, but perhaps a good start.  Looking at some individual pledges though give a scope of what needs to be done.  For example,  the European Union commited to cutting emissions by 80-95% by 2050, Costa Rica pledged to have 100% clean energy by 2016, and China (now the #1 emitter) pledged to cut emissions by 45% by 2020 from 2005 levels.  You can read a summary of what was pledged by each country here.

The day after the Climate March, the Rockfeller family annouced that they are divesting their $860 million philathropic organizaton from the fossil fuel industry, a stunning turn for the family that inherited its great wealth from the founder of Standard Oil (now Exxon), John D Rockfeller. The Rockfellers have joined the fossil fuel divestment movement, which is some 180 institutions and $50 billion dollars strong.  This movement to divest was also organized by 350.org and began on college campuses to advocate that higher ed endowments and foundations divest their holding of all the top fossil fuel company holdings.

Related Story : Local Fossil Fuel Divestment Actions

You don’t have to be in a Rockfeller or in the top 1% to take action on divestment.  Any organization or individual who holds stock, bonds or mutual funds either privately or in a retirement account can take action to divest.  Have your reviewed your portfolio recently to see what you can do?

A rising number of concerned voices have been pointing out that the divestment movement and other environmental groups are overly focused on fossil fuel energy, as though it were the overwhelming cause of global warming.  Not so, say these voices. Industrial agriculture, and particularly factory-farmed livestock, should hold a equal place at the table.  There is a growing consensus that agriculture is responsible for one third to over half of carbon equivalents in the atmosphere. 

Further, according to recent report by Rodale Institute, Regenerative Organic Climate Change and Agriculture, switching the global crop and pasture lands from the current industrial agriculture to a proven restorative organic system would capture more than 100% of current annual carbon emissions and store them back in the soil through the natural process of photosythesis.This natural carbon capture could be critical in reversing the level of carbon in our atmosphere – currently 400ppm down to 350ppm,  the level necessary to reach climate stability, and the number that is responsible for 350.org’s namesake.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) reported that  “there were nearly 50,000 people in the contingent representing food, agriculture, farming and food justice groups” in the NYC Climate March, including their own contingent marching behind the banner “Cook Organic Not the Planet.” OCA has also launched a campaign entitled “Factory Free Farm Fridays” to bring attention to the issue and offer everyone an opportunity to pledge to eat factory farm free every Friday.  

Green America , who also had a contingent of marchers in NYC, is also drawing attention to this critical component of climate change action.  The cover title of their newest edition of their quarterly Green American, is “Don’t Have A Cow,” and includes an interview with Earth Day founder Denis Hayes about his upcoming book, Cowed, a story about “Anything Vegan” nutritionist chefs and sisters, Jasmine Simon and Marji Simon Meinefeld; and a quiz to see How Big is Your Carbon Food-Print.

Related Story - For My Heart: A Personal Perspective on Eating a Plant-Based Diet

 


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