Shouting that the future and their lives depend on abandoning fossil fuels, tens of thousands of protesters on Sunday began a week in which world leaders will once again try to prevent climate change caused by burning of coal, oil and natural gas.
But protesters warn that this is not enough. And they directed their anger directly at US President Joe Biden, whom they urged to stop approving new oil and gas exploitation projects, abandon existing ones and declare a climate emergency with more executive powers.
“We have people power, the power they need to win this election,” said Emma Buretta, 17, of Brooklyn, a member of the Fridays for Future youth protest group. “If you want to win in 2024, if you don’t want the blood of my generation on your hands, end fossil fuels.”
Politicians like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and actors Susan Sarandon, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Kyra Sedgewick and Kevin Bacon joined the March to End Fossil Fuels. But the real action on Broadway is where protesters fill the streets, advocating for a better but less heated future. This is the prelude to Climate Week in New York, where leaders from the worlds of business, politics and the arts come together to try to save the planet, and which will be highlighted by a new special summit of the United Nations on Wednesday.
Many of the leaders of the countries that cause the most carbon pollution will not attend. And they will not speak at the summit organized by UN Secretary General António Guterres, so only countries that promise new concrete steps are invited to speak.
Organizers estimate that 75,000 people participated in Sunday’s march.
“There are people all over the world in the streets, demonstrating, demanding to stop what is killing us,” Ocasio-Cortez told a cheering crowd. “We need to send a message that some of us will live on this planet for 30, 40, 50 years. And we won’t take no for an answer.”
This protest is more focused on fossil fuels and the industry than previous marches. Sunday’s event attracted a large crowd, 15% of whom participated for the first time, and mostly women, said American University sociologist Dana Fisher, who studies environmental movements and observes of the participants in the march.
Of the people Fisher spoke with, 86% had recently experienced extreme heat; 21%, floods, and 18%, severe drought, he commented. Most reported feeling sad and angry. The Earth just went through the hottest summer on record.
Among the participants is Athena Wilson, 8, from Boca Raton, Florida. He and his mother, Maleah, flew in from Florida to join Sunday’s protest.
“Because we care about our planet,” Athena commented. “I really want the Earth to feel better.”
People in the south of the country, especially where the oil industry is located, and the entire global South, “do not feel,” said Alexandria Gordon, 23, from Houston. “It’s frustrating”.
Organizers of the protest stressed how disappointed they are that Biden, who many of them support in 2020, is presiding over further extraction of oil and fossil fuels.
“President Biden, our lives depend on the actions you take today,” said Louisiana environmental activist Sharon Lavigne. “If you don’t end fossil fuels, our blood will be on your hands.”
Almost a third of the world’s planned oil and gas exploration between now and 2050 corresponds to American interests, according to calculations by environmental activists. Over the past 100 years, the United States has emitted more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other country, although China now emits more carbon pollution each year.