I remember when, not so long ago, my hometown of Washington, D.C. was the place for protests. We had the Million Man’s March, the Million Mom’s March (which I attended, despite my inability to give birth), the March on Washington … you name it, if it involved placards and chants, we had it. But that was before Washington became known for a political process paralyzed by polarization, and a football team whose name you can’t mention in civilized company. Now, apparently, even protesters are too good for my city. If you’re going to take to the streets, New York is the place to be. And so it was precisely one week ago, when 400,000 strong filled up the Big Apple to vent about climate change.
If you didn’t make the trip or don’t live in Gotham City, you may have missed the rally. Lord knows that the television news stations decided that it wasn’t a worthy event to cover. Nobody at the rally was getting beheaded. No plane crashed on the way to the rally. No tear gas was used there. In short, the event was WAY too peaceful to interest today’s journalists, who seem hell bent on creating hell on earth … or at least on reporting about it. But trust me, that rally happened. And trust me, 400,000 participants makes for one big protest, even by the old-time Washington, D.C. standards.
I wasn’t in New York last Sunday. I was home in DC, working for a different movement, one that is less prominent than the environmental movement but certainly simpatico with it. I was at the "9/11 DC Unity Walk," celebrating with another 1000 or so Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Baha’i, and others who don’t identify with any one religion. We came together in support of the principle that the world’s religions can become forces for social unity and enlightenment rather than polarization and bigotry. That certainly is a principle worth trumpeting on any Sunday. But I have to say that I’m so very proud of the 400,000 who showed up in New York in support of a very different, but equally righteous cause. They were announcing to our nation and our world that the environment is not ours to destroy. It doesn’t belong to any one generation, or even one species. In fact, while the notion that God made this planet as a play toy for human beings may be teased out of certain interpretations of our holy books, we cannot allow ourselves to respect that notion. There is no such thing as a holy book that would countenance destruction of the place we all call home. A holy book is one that inspires us to recognize our roles as stewards and nurturers, not as greedy slobs.
This week, statistics were released indicating that our carbon emissions were on the increase during the first half of 2014. And what is equally clear is the culprit – our economy improved. So there you have it, fans of Catch 22: the better we do economically, the more we destroy our environment. Talk about a battle between ourselves and our grandchildren! But the reality is that, at least here in America, it won’t be our grandchildren who will feel the worst bites from climate change. It will first be felt in continents like Africa. And that’s where it is likely to destroy more human life, let alone animal and plant life, than all the world’s bombs, guns and beheadings combined.
I hate war as much as the next guy. In fact, judging from the amount of time I spend in the anti-war movement, I might even hate it more than many. But folks, what those 400,000 people were talking about last week should be topic one right now, even above war and peace. Climate change might not be the kind of killer they make Hollywood movies about, but it still is likely to be our greatest weapon of mass destruction. The fact that such destruction will be put off for 50 or 150 years in the future shouldn’t comfort us. It should shame us.
Let’s join the 400,000. Let’s ease up on the economics-obsession and save the planet. Sacrifice is not a dirty word, it’s a holy one.