Students from NWF's NYC Eco-Schools program marched for climate action! (Credit: Emily Fano, NWF)
Students from NWF’s NYC Eco-Schools program marched for climate action! (credit: Jennifer Prescott)
Certain moments on this journey to protect wildlife and future generations from the dangerous effects of climate change remind us that, together, we are making history. Sunday’s People’s Climate March was definitely one of those moments. National Wildlife Federation staff and affiliate leaders hailed from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, DC, and New York – along with countless members and supporters from a much longer list of states – to join the 400,000 person march through Manhattan.

For hours, marchers sang and danced, laughed and cried, while all moving collectively forward. It was intensely inspiring, to say the least. There is something strikingly poignant about a four-mile stretch of people bringing a moment of silence to New York City for one shared purpose. While the signs and t-shirts reflected the vast diversity of concerns that motivated folks to march, those concerns – from urban air quality to the preservation of tribal lands – united us all around one shared, rising call of our global community: “We are demanding the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.”

A Big Piece of a Big Puzzle

People's Climate March (flickr/Moms Clean Air Force)
People’s Climate March (credit: flickr/Moms Clean Air Force)
Sunday’s success will have an influence that continues to spread far and wide, likely for years to come. Such visible demonstrations of public demand for bold climate action build the foundation into which decision makers and industry leaders can confidently plant the roots of a clean, just, and responsible energy future. City, state, and federal officials are responding with commitments to progress. It’s up to us to hold them to it and insist that others continue to follow.

“This challenge demands our ambition.  Our children deserve such ambition.  And if we act now, if we can look beyond the swarm of current events and some of the economic challenges and political challenges involved, if we place the air that our children will breathe and the food that they will eat and the hopes and dreams of all posterity above our own short-term interests, we may not be too late for them.”

– President Obama at U.N. Climate Change Summit (9/23/2014)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio showed us the best kind of welcome with a New York Times headline on the day of the march announcing his plans to drastically improve the energy efficiency standards of public buildings, as part of a pledge to decrease the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. With New York’s massive offshore wind power potential, visionary leadership has ample opportunity to meet and exceed this target.

Mayor De Blasio’s confidence that “when New York City acts, it helps move policy in other places,” can be true of anywhere. Success inspires more of the same – and we need to let state leaders know that we will actively tout their progress for all to emulate. This becomes increasingly relevant and important as the Environmental Protection Agency moves toward finalizing its Clean Power Plan. Once the rule is issued in June of 2015, state leaders will be tasked with determining how to meet its standards – and it’s critical that they recognize the potential they hold to chart the path toward America’s energy future.

Offshore wind farm
Offshore wind power has grown into a booming international industry over the past 20 years, while creating thousands of jobs. (credit: Siemens Press)
Perhaps most importantly, the People’s Climate March invited everyone, everywhere to add their voice and speak up for the parts of this planet they treasure most. Large-scale clean energy solutions are within reach and capable of dramatically altering the environmental legacy we pass to future generations. A swift and responsible transition to a clean energy future needs every advocate. We will see results, and not only by measures of decreased carbon pollution and improved air and water quality. We will also see long-term job creation, stimulated local economies, and a buffer from the volatile fossil fuel market.

A shining example of clean energy advocacy: John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, urges New York Governor Cuomo to embrace the opportunity of offshore wind power in the New York Daily News two days after the People’s Climate March.

The People’s Climate March raised the bar. We made ourselves heard, and leaders at every level of government are already responding. We are moving the needle on climate action – and on Sunday we demonstrated our power as a united whole. Take a moment to be encouraged by the strength of our community and to bask in the glow of such a success. Then, let’s talk about what’s next!

Take ActionTell the Environmental Protection Agency that you support limits on carbon pollution and action on climate!