Watch the special 3-hour Democracy Now! live broadcast from the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21, part of a global mobilization in advance of a U.N. special session on climate change. It is estimated that more than 300,000 people filled the streets here, and more than 2,600 actions also took place around the world. Check out photos from the march in our Facebook photo album.
You can get a sense of how large the People’s Climate March was by watching this video footage filmed from a drone and provided anonymously to Democracy Now!.
See all of our climate coverage here, and highlights below.
This December Democracy Now! will be in Lima, Peru, broadcasting daily from the United Nations Climate Summit.
Democracy Now! has been on the ground to cover every United Nations Climate Change Summit since 2009 in Copenhagen, including the 2010 Summit in Cancún, the 2011 Summit in Durban, and the 2012 Summit in Doha, as well as related meetings like the 2010 World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change in Bolivia, and the 2012 Rio+20 Earth Summit. Most recently, we were in Warsaw, Poland to cover COP 19.
AMY GOODMAN: From Pacifica, this is Democracy Now! We are on the streets of New York City, where the largest People’s Climate March in history is about to take place. Tens of thousands—could it be hundreds of thousands—of people will be marching around the issue of climate change and how to deal with global warming. Today, we’ll bring you the voices from the streets. All of that and more, coming up.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. And we’re on the streets of New York City, where maybe hundreds of thousands of people from around the country and around the world are gathering for what could be the largest—one of the largest political marches in history, and certainly the largest People’s Climate March. We’re in New York City at Columbus Circle. Interesting it’s Columbus Circle, considering the march will be led by hundreds of indigenous people who have come from around the country and around the planet.
But right now, to lay out the scope of what’s taking place today in this historic moment is Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, one of the organizations that has organized this mass march today.
Bill McKibben, welcome to Democracy Now!
BILL McKIBBEN: Amy, thank you so much for being here and for documenting what’s going to be a pretty remarkable day. I think what you said was right. There hasn’t been a political gathering about anything that’s this large in this country for many years. And I think what it demonstrates is climate change is at the absolute tip now of people’s consciousness.
AMY GOODMAN: So, why don’t you lay out what is happening today? We are on Central Park West. We’re right outside the park, Central Park. And just a few minutes ago, an indigenous ceremony was finished in Central Park.
BILL McKIBBEN: That’s the beginning of what’s going to be a long—a long and beautiful day. We’re expecting now—it looks like a couple hundred thousand people. You can see them now already lining Central Park West as far north as we can see, somewhere past the Museum of Natural History there. They’re going to be marching, as the morning goes on, all the way through the midtown, through Times Square. We’re going to pause at some point for a couple of minutes of silence in honor of the people who have already died from climate change. And then, prepare your microphones, because we’re going to sound the climate alarm, the biggest possible noise that we all together can make, a kind of burglar alarm on the people who are trying to steal our future—mostly the fossil fuel industry and the politicians they employ.
AMY GOODMAN: How is that sound going to be made?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, whatever people—people are bringing whatever they got—trumpets, air horns. You name it, that’s what’s going to be making that sound—vocal chords, if it’s all you got.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of noise and sound, we’re going to just step aside for a moment, because an emergency vehicle is just coming through. And we’re going to just step aside. There’s all sorts of things that will be happening today, and we’re just going to have to go with the flow. In fact, a news conference just took place right behind us. In fact, Bill, well, as the police come out right now, we’ll see what’s happening. But, Bill, you can describe for us what happened at the news conference of all different groupings.
BILL McKIBBEN: Right. So the news conference was interesting. You know, there’s a lot of famous people here and senators and things. But actually, who we wanted talking were eight people representing the people who are already feeling the effects of climate change, the front-line groups that have really organized this march. So as we had, you know, Elizabeth Yeampierre from UPROSE here in the city, a Puerto Rican environmental organizer of great power. There was a 69-year-old retired coal miner with black lung from Kentucky. There was a woman from the Marshall Islands whose very homeland is washing away. There was Kandi Mossett, the great Native American leader from the middle of the country, talking about the toll that fracking has taken on their land. On and on. It was a very, very powerful moment.
AMY GOODMAN: So, we see some banners laid out on the ground. We also see sunflowers down the road. This is at 62nd Street, large banners that have sunflowers on them. Talk about—this first grouping is indigenous people and?
BILL McKIBBEN: Indigenous people and front-line communities.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s walk over here. Be careful. Be careful. We’re just going to walk right back. OK.
BILL McKIBBEN: So, it’s indigenous people and front-line communities in the lead, where they belong. And then, after that, there’s every—
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by “front-line” communities?
BILL McKIBBEN: Communities that have felt the effects, first and foremost, of climate change. Never forget that climate change—I mean, it’s bad for all of us, but it’s the most peculiarly unfair thing that’s ever happened. I mean, the people who produced the least carbon are the ones who get screwed first. And, you know, their voices need to be heard loudest, and so that’s why they’re up front. And it’s actually kind of fun for me to watch old Christopher Columbus having to look down from his pedestal at all the—you know, all the Native American leaders who have been in the head of this fight, walking past with their power. But then, after that, I mean, there’s some of everything. There’s blocs up there full of scientists in lab coats. And there are big, big groups of religious communities.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain that. The scientists are actually started outside the Museum of Natural History?
BILL McKIBBEN: Right where they belong. There’s a kind of—we’re calling it the geek parade, I think. And they’re—you know, scientists are sick of not being listened to. I mean, for 25 years they’ve been telling us what’s going on, but nobody pays any attention. And I think they’ve finally mostly reached the point where it’s like, “OK, if you won’t read the freaking papers that we’re putting out, then we will come out in the street and tell you.”
AMY GOODMAN: Now, I have a guide here. It’s a pack of white piece of paper, and it says on the cover, “A Guide to the Visuals at the March.” And now, maybe, for a moment, one of our camera people can show on 62nd Street the sunflowers that we see down the road. We’re going to see if we can turn this camera around and show the sunflowers that are lining up on the road. And according to this manual on the art here, it says, “Giant yellow sunflowers on banners, signs and parachutes, led by UPROSE, Sunset Park-based youth organization. Sunflowers are the symbol of the environmental justice movement, as they can clean heavy metals from soil through bioremediation. As part of the Our Power campaign, UPROSE is marching in solidarity with peers in Detroit, in Richmond and Black Mesa.”
BILL McKIBBEN: So, sunflowers, you know, their roots go down into—that’s why they grow in vacant lots so easily—go down into tough soil. And if there’s mercury or heavy metals or stuff, they can suck it up and get it out of the soil. That’s a pretty good symbol for what we’ve got to do. It’s not like, you know, we’re going to stop climate change from ever happening. It’s already underway and in big ways. We’re trying to keep it from getting worse. And we’re also trying to take some of that carbon out of the atmosphere so that generations to come won’t have to deal with this kind of problem.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you talked about the scientists. You talked about the indigenous. And maybe we can also show some images of the indigenous just starting to line up right now, indigenous people from this country. Yesterday we were talking to people from Ecuador. We were talking to people through Latin America. But—and then you have young people. And who are the other blocs?
BILL McKIBBEN: There are pretty much everything you can name. There’s big blocs of families. There’s groups—since New York is our great global city, there are immigrant groups from countries around the world marching en masse, because they know back home their brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers are feeling the effects of climate change. There are politicians marching someplace in there. There’s a bloc of elected officials. I saw Bernie Sanders down here a little while ago, so I know he’ll be there at the head. There’s pretty much some of everything up there. And in between it all, there’s this amazing artwork. So, hundreds of young people have been out over in warehouses in Brooklyn and Queens the last few weeks building these giant papier-mâché statues, the amazing floats, these parachutes that will be at the head of each section. It’s going to look beautiful not just here on the ground, it’s going to look beautiful from up above. And so, those pictures are going to go with the pictures that are coming in from all over the planet. There are 2,900 solidarity actions around the world today, Amy, and some of them are huge. I just heard there are 30,000 people marching in London right now, a five-hour march going through the streets of London, way bigger than we anticipated.
AMY GOODMAN: I also wanted to ask you about this announcement that Mayor de Blasio, the new mayor of New York, has made around New York City’s commitment to dealing with climate change and how significant it is. It’s today on the front page of The New York Times. Maybe someone’s got that paper. I think I see it right over there. I’m going to see if I can get a copy. It says, “In a sweeping effort to reduce its environmental impact, New York City is planning to overhaul the energy-efficiency standards of all its public buildings and to pressure private landlords to make similar improvements.”
Now, it’s a pretty interesting number. “The initiative is part of a pledge, to be announced before … the [U.N.] Climate Summit … Tuesday, to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels. The [U.N.] has pointed to that rate of decrease as a desired target for developed countries to mitigate the effects of climate change.” And the significance is New York would become the largest city in the world to make the commitment, according to Mayor de Blasio.
BILL McKIBBEN: It strikes me that we should have marched a long time ago. This is a good sign about what happens when people get together and ask for things. And, you know, it’s a good thing to have a mayor like de Blasio who takes that seriously and goes to work on it, and I’m really glad to hear it. The real point of this is that we—if we assemble enough people and enough movement, then we can match the money that the fossil fuel industry has. That’s all they have. They lost the argument 20 years ago about climate change, but they’ve won the fight because they have all the money. We don’t have money, so we better assemble what we do have, which is warm bodies. And there’s a lot of them out here today.
AMY GOODMAN: You said the Koch brothers, together, are the richest person on Earth?
BILL McKIBBEN: They’re the richest person on Earth. And not only that, they are more than willing to spend some percentage of that wealth making sure that nothing ever changes. There was one study that said that if the Keystone pipeline got built, they’d make another $100 billion, the two of them.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re from Vermont, Bill.
BILL McKIBBEN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: We have just talked to Senator Sanders, who may run for president. But you also come from a state where there will be scores of buses that are coming here.
BILL McKIBBEN: Yes. No, we heard there’s more than a thousand Vermonters heading down. I heard there were 23 buses, and we’re hearing people filled the trains and everything else. Vermont’s definitely in the house. But there’s—you know, the Climate Train arrived from California yesterday full of people. There are buses coming from Wisconsin and Minnesota. And, I mean, it’s going to be mildly chaotic here on Central Park West for an hour or two, so people just got to be calm and cool and collected. But if you’re listening to this anywhere near New York, you should be here, because this is history today.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, the Vermont governor, Shumlin, has just said he may consider divesting the state from fossil fuels. It’s something you have been demanding.
BILL McKIBBEN: Absolutely. And, you know, we’ve got universities and pension funds, but Vermont Governor Shumlin is the first governor to say he’s going to divest his state from fossil fuels.
AMY GOODMAN: What does that mean?
BILL McKIBBEN: That would be a very big boost to what’s already the fastest-growing divestment movement ever. States and universities and churches should not be invested in companies that are wrecking the planet. It’s financially unwise, because if we ever do anything about climate, they’ll be out of luck, but it’s morally impossible. You can’t complain about the fact that Hurricane Irene is wrecking Vermont if you’re also investing in the companies that are bringing you Hurricane Irene.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Bill, I want to thank you for being with us. There are a lot of people to talk to. This is quite a remarkable day, the largest People’s Climate March in history, perhaps one of the largest political gatherings in this country ever. We’re standing next to Central Park. The march is set to begin around 11:30. People have gathered from Columbus Circle, which is 59th Street, going all the way up to something like 84th Street. And there are thousands of people, many, many signs. Let’s see. I’m looking at one sign right in front of me that says, “Evidence Speaks: Act Now!” And next to me, “Stop the TransCanada Pipeline.” Behind me, there are many. There are sunflowers ahead of us. We’re joined right now by Jihan Gearon with Black Mesa Water Coalition. It’s wonderful to see you here in New York City, Jihan.
JIHAN GEARON: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about where you came in from.
JIHAN GEARON: Yes, I’m coming from northern Arizona as part of a delegation of 13 of us from the Navajo Nation. We have come here to join our allies to talk about solutions to climate change that are community-based. You know, we’ve borne the brunt of the fossil fuel industry for 40-plus years. Where we work is home to two coal mines. I know that you, yourself, have done a documentary on Black Mesa. We’ve also brought folks who are being impacted by uranium mining and fracking, and oil and gas development. So we have come here with a lot of solutions about a just transition, to join everybody, to join the energy, and to push for a new economy that’s based off of our traditional values, that’s based off of sustainability. And we think it’s possible, and so we’re really excited to be here and join everybody in that mission.
AMY GOODMAN: You have a sticker on your T-shirt that says, ”REDD,” R-E-D-D-plus with a ban sign through it. Explain.
JIHAN GEARON: Sure. REDD stands for reducing emissions from forest degradation and deforestation, and it’s one of the policies that’s being pushed by the U.N. It’s a carbon offset policy, which sounds good, in theory—it says we’re going to protect forests in South America—but really what that means is that they are commodifying nature, commodifying the environment, commodifying the amount of carbon in trees, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and kind of playing like a board game with it. And so, for those of us in North America who are impacted by coal, by the tar sands, that’s giving companies a way out, a way to justify them polluting our communities. And also, at the same time, the reality of what’s happening because of REDD projects in Brazil or in Africa or Indonesia is that indigenous people are really being kicked out of these lands, kicked out of the places that they have protected for all of these years. And they’re the ones who have kept forests intact. And yet, they’re being kicked out to make way for big plantations and companies to own these. So, we’ve been calling it another form of colonization. And so, we’re saying, you know, put an end to CO2lonialism and, you know—
AMY GOODMAN: Say that again. So, it’s the image. It says?
JIHAN GEARON: CO2lonialism is what the carbon trading and forest offsets means.
AMY GOODMAN: So it looks like “colonialism” with a little two.
JIHAN GEARON: That’s right. It’s a fancy way of promoting more ways to take over indigenous people’s land and resources. So, we’re against those policies. Again, that’s what’s being pushed at the U.N. level. And we’re here to say that there are other things like community-owned solar development, public transportation, food sovereignty projects, that will have a much bigger impact on reducing the climate change problem and will also empower communities like ours.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe right now—we’re going to show one of our cameras.
JIHAN GEARON: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, I think we see Clayton Thomas-Muller—
JIHAN GEARON: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —who is chanting right now, who was on Democracy Now! on Friday. And he is chanting, leading the indigenous delegation. You’re a part of this delegation?
JIHAN GEARON: I am a part of this delegation, and Clayton is one of my best friends. And we’re at the front of this march just in recognition that we are the people who are first impacted by climate change, first impacted by the causes of climate change and first impacted by the impacts of climate change. Also, as everyone else is, you know, big brothers and big sisters here in North America, the thing the indigenous people bring to these marches and to the climate movement is a strong spiritual connection to Mother Earth, which we feel needs to be the forefront and the focus of our movement. And so, you know, we’re very grateful that the organizers recognize that and have let us lead the march.
AMY GOODMAN: I understand that Leonardo DiCaprio is here supporting the indigenous movement. Why would this actor be so involved?
JIHAN GEARON: Well, I know that Leonardo DiCaprio has been really involved in the issue of climate change for many years. And he recently took a trip to the tar sands in northern BC to witness the crazy devastation that exists there. And so, he came out here to support us. He’s built relationships with indigenous people. And we’re just really grateful that he’s lent his celebrity to help us.
AMY GOODMAN: I believe that we have a clip of Leonardo DiCaprio talking about why he is here, why he’s particularly supporting the indigenous movement. I’ll get a signal from the studio when we are able to play that for you. But I want to thank you so much, Jihan—
JIHAN GEARON: Thank you so much.
AMY GOODMAN: —for being here, from the Black Mesa [Water] Coalition. I think we have that clip right now of Leonardo DiCaprio.
SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: … will be joining our climate advocacy efforts. Leonardo DiCaprio is not just one of the world’s leading actors. He has also long-standing commitment to environmental causes, including through his foundation. Today I am appointing him as our newest United Nations Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on climate change issues. His global stardom is the perfect match for this global challenge. His first act as Messenger of Peace will be to address the opening of the climate summit on October—on September 23rd.
LEONARDO DICAPRIO: This is no small task. As we all know, it’s going to have to involve the largest movement, I think, as we were discussing, in human history. But we are at a pivotal turning point, We are seeing the effects of rapid climate change happening every week in the news.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s with the indigenous delegation today here in New York at the largest People’s Climate March in history. The march is soon going to get underway. We’re live-streaming at democracynow.org. Tell all your friends. Facebook it. Tweet it. Thousands of people have already—are already watching. And you can embed it on your website, as well. There are thousands of organizations here. There are even marching bands here. But right now we’re joined by Elizabeth Yeampierre. She is with UPROSE, which is a Brooklyn environmental organization. And she is one of the core organizers here in New York at this historic march.
Elizabeth, welcome to Democracy Now!
ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what’s happening right now.
ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: What’s happening is that people from every barrio, from every corner, from all walks of life, are coming together to say that we are redefining this moment, and we’re defining this movement, and that we’re basically saying that climate change is here and that we—we are the solutions, we’re the experts.
AMY GOODMAN: Why Sunset Park? Why UPROSE involved with climate change? There are many other issues you’ve been involved with.
ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: We have been involved with environmental justice since 1996, and we’ve been doing climate justice work since 2007, because we believe that our communities are going to be impacted more than any other. Because we’ve got all of the environmental burdens that serve the Sunset Park community, our community is particularly vulnerable to climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: For the folks who are watching right now, a police contingent is going through our broadcast, so that’s why you see the wall of blue. But, Elizabeth, go ahead.
ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: Next week we’ll be working on policing. Today it’s climate justice. But yeah, we have a community that’s really made up of front-line communities, you know, people who are most impacted and going to be more affected by this. Sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: Sir, if you could just step a little outside the shot? We’re just doing this live broadcast. So, it looks like we are joined by a fellow environmentalist. Elizabeth Yeampierre is with us, from UPROSE. And we’re also joined by Bobby Kennedy Jr., a longtime environmental lawyer. Bobby, if you could just step back right there and stand right there as we do this makeshift staging for a protest that is not exactly makeshift. This has been in the planning for how long?
ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: For eight months. We’ve been working diligently for eight months.
AMY GOODMAN: Bobby Kennedy, talk about why you’re out here today.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: Well, Amy, I was here on Earth Day 1970. I was down at Union Square Park. And, you know, I remember what it was like then. I remember the Cuyahoga River burning, Lake Erie being declared dead, the Santa Barbara oil spill that destroyed all the beaches in southern California. Peregrine falcons, the Manhattan peregrine that used to nest on that building there, went extinct in 1969 from DDT poisoning. And a lot of people said, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s just the way that industry works.” But we put 20 million Americans out onto the street that year, 10 percent of our population, a thousand demonstrations like this across the country, largest public demonstrations in American history. And that vast outpouring of democratic power so frightened the politicians in our country that over the next 10 years we passed 28 major environmental laws. We’re trying to do the same thing today. American politics is driven by two forces, and one is intensity, and the other is money. The Koch brothers have all the money. They’re putting $300 million this year to their efforts to stop the climate bill. And the only thing we have in our power is people power. And that’s why we need to put this demonstration on the street.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you’ve certainly put it there. What do you think your father would say?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR.: I think he’d be very disturbed by what’s happened to American democracy. I think he’d be horrified by the Citizens United case and by the subversion that we’ve seen of our democracy in this country, by these apocalyptical forces of ignorance and greed that are funded by Big Oil and Big Coal. And, you know, it’s not the way that America is supposed to work. This is supposed to be an exemplary nation, and we’re supposed to be an example of democracy to the rest of the world. Democracy and the environment are intertwined. Most important environmental law that we can pass right now, besides putting a price on carbon, is getting rid of the Citizens United case.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, and as you were speaking, Bobby Kennedy, the march looks like it has launched. Elizabeth, you have to leave, as well.
ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: I do. I have to leave.
AMY GOODMAN: But if you could just say final words about the global nature of this protest?
ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: Absolutely. We’ve got people marching all over the world in solidarity with New York City today—it’s really exciting—people from the Global South, from Europe, all over. So this is a big, loud noise that we’re sending out to the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Elizabeth Yeampierre, thank you so much. We have so many people to speak to today. Thank you, Elizabeth. And now we are joined by an unusual man. His name is District Attorney Sam Sutter. He’s a Massachusetts district attorney who, in the last year, has been involved with prosecuting two environmentalists. The environmentalists are named Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara. Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, maybe you can describe what it is you did over a year ago, and then why you’re standing today with the man who prosecuted you.
KEN WARD: Certainly. Over a year ago, we took a 32-foot-long wooden lobster boat, and we anchored it in the path of a tanker coal cargo ship carrying 40,000 tons of coal, in order to try to stop it and stop burning coal, because of the impact on the environment, climate.
AMY GOODMAN: Describe that moment, that day.
JAY O’HARA: So, it was a beautiful cloudless day, and we were in this little white lobster boat in front of this mountain of coal at the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts, and this huge, hulking black freighter was coming in. And we were anchored there for most of the day and pretty much blocked the coal for the day and ended up working with the Coast Guard and working with the local police, and eventually finding ourselves in court just about two weeks ago, where we met Mr. Sutter here.
AMY GOODMAN: So, did you just meet outside of the courtroom today?
SAM SUTTER: No, no, we actually—we met that day, but then we’ve gotten to know each other over the last couple of days, so—and we’re sort of forging an alliance of sorts. I mean, they’re right, very right, on the issue; obviously, their action technically broke the law. But we found the perfect solution that day: dismiss the criminal conspiracy, reduce the other charges to a civil infraction. And so, now it’s a question of where we—what we do going forward. But as I said, they’re right as rain on the issue.
AMY GOODMAN: So, did they open your eyes? I mean, what happened when a year ago this case was put on your desk? You’re the district attorney. These guys stopped—what was it? Forty thousand—
JAY O’HARA: Tons.
KEN WARD: Tons.
AMY GOODMAN: —tons of coal from coming into one of the largest regional coal plants in the area.
SAM SUTTER: Well, it’s a nonviolent case, obviously, and I’ve got three cities with gang violence and gun violence. We’ve done a lot to reduce it, but it’s still there. So it wasn’t a prominent case. My press secretary kept saying to me, “This is a big case. This is a big case.” But I didn’t really focus on it until about a week to go before the trial. And then, when I did, I mean, I think that the science is now reaching the point, as far as global warming, that it’s just overwhelming. I mean, you have to be a modern-day Luddite not to accept what’s taking place and try to do—and now the question is: What are we going to try to do about it? And that’s why I’m here today, and that’s why we’re getting to know each other better.
AMY GOODMAN: So are you marching together in the Massachusetts delegation?
SAM SUTTER: I believe so.
JAY O’HARA: Yes.
KEN WARD: Absolutely. That’s where we’re headed after this.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever think this day would come?
KEN WARD: Blown away.
JAY O’HARA: It’s pretty surprising, but I think when we, as activists, as people of faith, who really care about this, step out and do something bold, it creates the space for others to step out and be bold, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you all for being with us. I want to thank you, District Attorney Sam Sutter, as well as Jay and Ken, as we turn right now, on the corner of Central Park West, to Sting. That’s right, the musician Sting. Hi, Sting. It’s great to see you.
STING: Hello, my darling. How are you? Nice to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what are you doing here?
STING: Well, I’m with the indigenous group here, you know, and they’ve always been at the forefront of this struggle, and I think it’s right that they’re at the front of it. Their message has always been the same: The planet’s in danger, and you better wise up. And you know there’s a very, very well-financed, well-organized campaign to sow complacency about climate change, at the behest of oil companies and its propaganda. These people aren’t complacent. I’m not complacent. We have to do something. Today is the day.
AMY GOODMAN: And why march with indigenous people? Talk about your involvement. People certainly know you as a musician, but you’re also a major global environmental activist.
STING: Well, you know, the indigenous peoples’ message has been consistent from the beginning of this thing, and they’re saying, “We’re in danger.” And what endangers them in their homelands endangers us here in New York City. It’s the same planet. It’s a consistent and very simple message, and that’s why I’m with them today.
AMY GOODMAN: You spend time with world leaders who are in awe of you. What do you tell them?
STING: I don’t think they’re—
AMY GOODMAN: Or who have rocked out to you. What do you tell them?
STING: Only what I’m telling you now: Listen to the people who know, which is the indigenous community here.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think President Obama is doing enough?
STING: No, I don’t think anybody’s doing enough, frankly. I think, you know, we need to really pool our resources to make sustainable energy a reality. You know, the world is full of energy. We have solar power, wind. We can do more than just dig oil out of the ground and destroy the climate.
AMY GOODMAN: Britain? Your home country, Britain?
STING: No, none of us are doing enough. None of us are doing enough. But we need government to step up to the plate.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s a U.N. climate summit on Tuesday. Your thoughts about that? There’s concern about the level of corporate involvement.
STING: Yeah, well, a lot of corporations will pretend they’re trying to save the planet, and they’re doing the opposite. So, I have no patience with that kind of whitewash. But we’ve got to be careful. We’ve got to be careful. I got—I’m losing my group here. I’ve got to—I’ve got to go.
AMY GOODMAN: OK, go march with the indigenous people towards Columbus Circle. There is an interesting irony here, as the gathering is here at Columbus Circle and it’s the indigenous people of the world who are leading this march and will be passing the Christopher Columbus statue. Next up, we’re joined by Michael Leon Guerrero, who’s with the Climate Justice Alliance. It’s great to see you, Michael.
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: Great to see you, Amy. How are you?
AMY GOODMAN: As I step on this traffic thing.
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about why you’re here and where you’re from.
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: Well, I’m originally from Guam, from Micronesia. And so, we have 2,000 islands that are spread out throughout the Pacific that are among the most vulnerable to climate change. But I’m here with the Climate Justice Alliance Our Power Campaign. We have communities throughout the country that are living in the—basically in the shadow of fossil fuel industries, coal mines, coal-generated fire—coal-fired power plants, things like that. So, we’re here basically to demand that our world leaders address the root causes of climate change, which is the economy, and how do we transition our economy, rebuild our communities, create jobs that sustain life and heal with the planet. So, that’s why we’re here.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the bloc that you’re marching with.
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: Well, it’s the next one coming up. We had the indigenous delegation that just passed through. The first bloc that’s—the next bloc that’s coming up is front-line communities under the banner of “On the front-line of the crisis, in the forefront of change.” So we have communities that are organizing in all of these areas that are being polluted by extractive industries and that are working to transition their communities to new, local living economies. So we have environmental justice groups, a very diverse contingent of indigenous people, people of color, people from Appalachia, all throughout the United dates and other parts of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: How many people have come from Guam?
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: From Guam, I actually don’t know. There’s a whole contingent of Pacific Islanders from different islands, like Kiribats, from Fiji, from a number of islands that are being affected by climate change. There’s a handful of people here that are actually from Guam, but a number from Micronesia, from throughout Micronesia and the rest of the Pacific.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what you do from here, where you go from here.
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: Well, this is about how we build a powerful grassroots movement for climate justice. And so, the powerful thing about this march today is the diversity of the march. I mean, there are hundreds, tens of thousands of people that are going to be in the march today, but it’s not just about the numbers, it’s about the diversity of it, where we have labor, we have faith-based groups, migrant communities. We have environmental justice communities. And that’s what it’s going to take. We need more than just environmentalists and climate activists in this movement. We need everybody to build the movement we need to change the economy and address the crisis of climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts on the role of the United States on the issue of climate change?
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: Well, the United States is fundamental, because of the level of consumption, the amount of fossil fuels that are used, the amount of pollution that’s emitted from the United States and other Northern industrialized countries. We do have a debt. We do have a debt to address to the rest of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by climate debt.
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: Well, because these countries have had 200 years of industrial development and pollution that have been going out to the rest of the world, that the rest of the world, particularly the Global South, and environmental justice communities even within the United States have been living with and absorbing, living with the health impacts, the environmental devastation. So there’s a responsibility that the United States government has, and other Northern industrial nations, to make sure that we reverse the trend of climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: And how can they concretely do that? For example, in binding agreements at the U.S. climate summit?
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: Well, binding agreements are one thing. It’s a matter of whether they stick to them. But also what we’re concerned about is that they take the right action, right? So, fracking, all these options that are being proposed as solutions, really aren’t solutions. They’re really false promises. We do have the tools in front of us right now to address climate change and address the economic crisis. We can create millions of jobs rebuilding our communities, energy-efficient housing, renewable energy, local agricultural systems, public transportation infrastructure. All of that stuff is available to us right now. All we need is the political will to do it, and we need a powerful grassroots movement that’s going to demand that. That’s what’s really going to make the change.
AMY GOODMAN: So, we’re here today. This is the U.N.—this is the People’s Climate March. And tomorrow, though, there is going to be a mass action called “Flood Wall Street.” That’s right, on Wall Street. Are you going to be a part of that?
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: Well, we’ve got a number of activities that are going on—Flood Wall Street. We have a People’s Climate Justice Summit, where we’re going to also be having a tribunal that’s taking place.
AMY GOODMAN: Where are you doing that?
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: That’s going to be at the Church Center, right across the street from the United Nations, and also at The New School here in Manhattan. And we’re going to have a tribunal on Tuesday denouncing the inaction or the false actions of the United Nations. Flood Wall Street tomorrow is going to be a huge event, and we’re inviting everybody to show up at Battery Park wearing blue, and basically to point out that the real problem is with Wall Street and the 1 percent, and how we have to organize the 99 percent to address the issue of climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: And what are people going to do?
MICHAEL LEON GUERRERO: There’s going to be a lot of the direct actions that are being organized. There’s going to be—there’s a variety of things that are going to be safe activities people can do, and other types of direct actions and protest, as well, so…
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Michael Leon Guerrero, for being with us. I know you have to get back with your group. The Indigenous Rights Project is coming up, with all sorts of floats, with signs, with puppets. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. And we are broadcasting from the largest People’s Climate March in history. We are just outside Columbus Circle. We are showing you the images of the march. I can see down Central Park West right now, and for scores of streets, I think right up to 80th Street—we are down around 60th Street—the streets are filled with people, signs, posters. We’re joined right now—thank you, Michael—by Sandra Steingraber, who’s just come up. I mean, everywhere you turn are the leaders in the environmental movement. Sandra Steingraber is with the group New Yorkers Against Fracking. Talk about what you’re doing and what exactly fracking is.
SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, New Yorkers Against Fracking is a kind of welcoming party for this march. This is our home court. We have built out a very powerful social movement, probably the biggest social movement in New York’s history. We started out a few years ago as just a few groups, and we wanted a ban on fracking here in New York.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain fracking.
SANDRA STEINGRABER: Fracking is a process by which our own drinking water is used as a club to smash apart the bedrock underneath our feet, which contain tiny bubbles of methane, which is what natural gas is. And this is an extreme process by which we are going to get more fossil fuel out of the ground, by blowing apart our bedrock. And we know—we began not as a climate change movement. The anti-fracking movement began because poisonous chemicals are added to this water to blow apart the bedrock. So we began out of a concern that we are being poisoned. But as it turns out, the same fragile wells that cause our drinking water to be contaminated also put climate-killing methane into the atmosphere. And because natural gas is the only one of the three fossil fuels—coal, oil and gas—that’s dressed up as a possible solution to climate change, we’re here actually with a very strong message to our president, to President Obama, to let him know that any plan to deal with climate change that does not close the door on fracking and natural gas is doomed to fail.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your own background, Sandra.
SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, I’m a biologist. And so, I have a really strong interest in the ability of the fracking chemicals to harm human health. But the more we learned about these inherently leaking wells, the more we learned that it’s not just harmful chemicals that could enter our body, but the methane itself, which is a very volatile gas, can enter the atmosphere. So each one of these fracking wells is a kind of methane cigarette in the earth. And we can mess around with regulations and put filters on these cigarettes, but what the science says is that, at best, we can only control 40 percent of those leaks. And as the fracking boom rolls out more wells across the landscape, you can see that the total amount of methane is going to keep going up, even if we can control some of those leaks. And we know from what the science has said—and this is right from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—that methane is the most important gas to regulate right now because it’s so powerful at trapping heat in our atmosphere.
AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of Governor Cuomo’s position? You know, it’s interesting. He was challenged by the candidate Zephyr Teachout. Now, she lost, although it was very unnerving, I think, overall, for the Democratic Party how much—in New York, how little she lost by in the Democratic primary. Now, I think an assessment was done of the areas that are most concerned about fracking, and in every last one, she beat out Governor Cuomo. What’s Cuomo’s position? I want to say, as we are speaking, another large indigenous community protest is coming by us with people in their traditional—in their traditional clothing, carrying signs, carrying floats. Sandra, if you could keep speaking?
SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, of course, we bring a strong message to our governor, as well. And we have increasingly seen here in New York the needle of public opinion move more and more against fracking. And I think those results were demonstrated in the result of this primary election. And so, the places where fracking would be, the front-line communities voted for the candidate who wanted to ban it. So I think that’s a very clear message from the electorate of New York that we want not just a temporary moratorium that could be lifted at any moment, but an abiding ban on fracking. We really want to turn this state into a showcase for renewable energy. And one of the things we’re very aware of is that fracking is not only threatening the climate, but it also—because it’s dressed up as the sort of white meat of the fossil fuels, if you will, the danger here is that it’s a problem that’s dressed up as the solution. And if we keep investing in natural gas, we are de-investing and we’re creating disincentives for what we know we can do here, which is real renewable energy. Otherwise, New York stands to be an amazing showcase for renewable energy. I mean, we have seen—you know, my daughter is 16 years old, and she has seen water sloshing through the subways of Manhattan as the seas rise. She’s seen I-86 swallowed up by the Susquehanna River. And what she says is, “You know, Mama, I don’t want to visit the Arctic. I just want to take ice caps for granted again. And I think that sentiment is really reflected in the young people across, well, the entire United States, but certainly that’s what I’m hearing and seeing here in New York. And we’re a progressive state, and we want this place to be the showcase for renewable energy, and we want Governor Cuomo to lead us to that place.
AMY GOODMAN: And isn’t fracking being posed, for example, by President Obama himself as a chance for energy self-sufficiency in the United States?
SANDRA STEINGRABER: Well, this is the big danger, and this is why we’re here in such huge numbers, Amy, because we have a very strong message for the president, which is that the science clearly shows that you can’t frack your way to climate stability. And fracking is not a solution to, it’s a contributor to climate change. And so, we can’t promulgate regulations against one of the two greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide—and let the other one run at large. You know, carbon dioxide comes in—carbon comes in two flavors. It’s carbon dioxide and methane. Those are both—those are our two greenhouse gases. And of the two, it’s methane that is the most powerful over a 20-year period. And that’s the only—what the science tells us is that’s the only period left to us in order to solve this problem, which is why the IPCC has correctly said we can’t—of these greenhouse gases, if you want to really make a dent in warming, you have to control methane.
AMY GOODMAN: Sandra Steingraber, I want to thank you very much for being with us, New Yorkers Against Fracking. As we turn right now to Neil Young. Neil Young is actually singing at a concert with many people in Nebraska, but we are debuting his song for the first time on this broadcast on Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Neil Young, premiering here on Democracy Now! We urge you all to tune in to democracynow.org. Tell your friends. Tweet it. Go on Facebook. Thousands of people are following our live stream, as we are here live in New York City at the largest People’s Climate March in history. This isn’t a local issue or a national issue, it is clearly a global issue. As to how many people show up, already history has been made. Some were saying 100,000, others 200,000. Buses, trains, people flying in, walking in, not only around this country, but around the world. I’m Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! And we are just overwhelmed with the creativity of the march, the puppets, the floats, the posters everywhere. We’re joined right now by Leo Cerda, who is with Amazon Watch. He is from Ecuador.
And, Leo, welcome to Democracy Now!
LEO CERDA: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me, as I came all the way from the Amazon here to tell the governments to take action on climate change, to defend the Amazon and to keep the oil in the ground. We’re very glad to be here with all these people from all over the world, to create solidarity groups and to tell them that what is going on in the Amazon now is a global defense, is a global defense for the planet. You know, the indigenous people, we have been defending the Amazon, and now the whole world has to defend the Amazon. And we have to keep the oil in the ground. There should not be more extraction of the oil in the Ecuadorean Amazon. There’s people there. And now the climate needs the Amazon. So it’s a very important thing to tell the people that we are all in the struggle now.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you get involved with this? And what oil companies are threatening your area of Ecuador?
LEO CERDA: I got involved through—since I was a kid. You know, I lived—I grew up in the Amazon. And I—
AMY GOODMAN: Where in the Amazon?
LEO CERDA: In Tena, in a small town in Ecuadorean Amazon. And when I realized that there were other indigenous people affected by oil companies, I couldn’t bear the thought that they could be affected. And I grew up like by the river, drinking like good water, and I couldn’t bear the fact that I knew that other people have been struggling. So I started to defend. I don’t want more companies. I don’t want any more oil development in the Ecuadorean Amazon. The Chinese companies are investing in Ecuador for the Ecuadorean government and the Ecuadorean national company, Petroamazonas, to take the oil from our soil. And we just want to tell them that we want to keep the oil in the ground.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the deal that President Correa made with China. How has this happened?
LEO CERDA: Ecuador basically didn’t pay like debt that they have with the International Monetary like lenders, and now they have not enough liquidity. And now they are asking for money, and the only people that will give us that money is the Chinese companies. And we don’t know how the Chinese companies operate. They don’t know about regulations.
AMY GOODMAN: So they give you the money, and you repay them in oil.
LEO CERDA: Yes, exactly. The government, the Ecuadorean government, asked them for money, and the way they can pay back is with oil, not with money. They just want our oil, our resources, without thinking that there is indigenous people living in the Amazon, that the Amazon is a carbon sink for the whole planet. And now we’re dealing with a lot of catastrophes with climate change. We’re telling the world now that we are in the Amazon. We’ve been protecting the Amazon. We want the governments, the corporations to leave us alone. We’re fine there, you know? Don’t come and take our resources. We’re living fine. We’re just people—we just want the governments to understand that we want to keep the oil in the ground. We have our lifelines. We live there safely happy. We don’t want any of the corruption, money, destructive capitalist system in the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the face paint that you’re wearing today?
LEO CERDA: Yeah, this is my friend from another community telling me that I should wear a warrior face paint, because we’re here, and I was without paint, and she was like, “No, you need to wear your face with a warrior defending symbol.” This is a warrior symbol that we use.
AMY GOODMAN: And will you be participating Monday in Flood Wall Street?
LEO CERDA: We’ll be there. We’re here with other indigenous people from the Ecuadorean Amazon, other leaders, that we’re all here to tell them that we, the people from the South, are here, and we want to connect with the people in the North. And this is a planet struggle, and we are here in the front lines to defend it.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Leo Cerda from Amazon Watch, for being here.
LEO CERDA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you from—and go and take action. We’re here. Come and join us. Watch Democracy Now! We’re all here.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you can see people from all over the world are here. I see right now Dr. Oliver Fein in the crowd. Let’s see if he can join us, as well as Katie Robbins. And they are with Physicians for a National Health Program. So, is our doctor worried?
DR. OLIVER FEIN: Very worried about the effect of climate change on my patients, on their families, on you and me, frankly. You know that there’s going to be a major health impact.
AMY GOODMAN: What is this impact?
DR. OLIVER FEIN: Well, there are a variety of examples. For instance, when temperature rises, the ozone level at the ground level actually goes up, and that stimulates asthma in children, in adults, in the elderly. You know, when temperatures go up, more people will in fact suffer heat stroke. It is estimated that by 2050, we will have 70 percent more deaths from heat-related events than we have today. And the rainfall when temperatures go up becomes in fact much heavier, leading to flooding, and flooding frequently leads to contamination of drinking water. So there will be water-borne salmonella infections. So these things all are going to impact us, but interestingly, most profoundly, probably people with low resources, poor people, African Americans, Latinos. So that’s why I think that climate change justice goes along with healthcare justice.
AMY GOODMAN: Katie Robbins, how did you get involved with this issue? You’re a healthcare professional.
KATIE ROBBINS: I guess I have my master’s in public health, and I think it’s so important that people realize how personal this issue really is. It’s not just about polar bears, but the health impacts of climate change are going to affect future generations if we don’t do things now, when we have the opportunity. I actually—this is very personal to me. I am expecting my first kid in a few months, and—
AMY GOODMAN: Congratulations.
KATIE ROBBINS: Thank you. The reports from UNICEF show that children are going to be most heavily impacted by climate change. And that has to do with the kind of health issues that Dr. Fein raised—asthma—but also food insecurity in many parts of the world and the effects of extreme weather, which lead to flood and displacement. So now is the time to act, before these problems get—
AMY GOODMAN: Your sign says?
KATIE ROBBINS: “Climate Change is a Health Crisis.”
AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting. You have many organizations at the bottom of this sign.
KATIE ROBBINS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Name them.
KATIE ROBBINS: We’ve been working on building the health contingent for this march, with National Nurses United, the New York State Nurses Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, ACT UP, Climate 911, and many unions, as well, healthcare unions.
AMY GOODMAN: Interesting you should raise unions, because just down the street from us, at 58th Street about and Broadway, there is a big union rally, and thousands of union activists are going to be joining this march, after they rally. Now, Dr. Fein, what kind of doctor are you?
DR. OLIVER FEIN: I’m a internal medicine, general medicine physician.
AMY GOODMAN: How common is it for doctors to see climate change as a health issue?
DR. OLIVER FEIN: I think it’s not that common these days, but it’s increasingly an issue that I think more and more physicians are going to rally behind. But it requires major system change, just as, for instance, single-payer national health insurance, what I advocate for, requires major system change.
AMY GOODMAN: How are they connected, single-payer and climate change?
DR. OLIVER FEIN: Well, because in fact I think we need a mass movement to create climate change, I think we also probably need a mass movement in terms of single-payer national health insurance.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Dr. Oliver Fein and Katie Robbins, who are holding a sign that says, “Climate Change is a Health Crisis.” I see Reverend Lennox Yearwood right behind you, so thanks for joining us.
DR. OLIVER FEIN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: I know you want to rejoin your contingent. There are scientists here. They first gathered—their gathering point was the Museum of Natural History. And there’s a large contingent of doctors, of nurses. We are also joined by Reverend Lennox Yearwood. He is the president of the Hip Hop Caucus. Why hip hop dealing with climate change?
REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD: Well, I think we have to. I think climate change is the issue of our day. And so, I think many of us who were part of the civil rights movement—in the 20th century, they fought for equality; in the 21st century, we’re fighting for existence. So I think the hip-hop community is gathering together to lend their voice, their creativity, their excitement, their energy to be a part of this movement.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how it’s being expressed in the whole hip-hop movement.
REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD: You know, it’s amazing, because I think that it’s been a slow growth, because there are so many other issues definitely going on in the hip-hop community we’re dealing with, from Ferguson, Trayvon Martin and the other issues that we’re dealing with. But I think, as we begin to deal with this issue, we’re thinking about pollution, regarding those coal-fired plants in our communities, causing bronchitis and cancer and asthma. I think so many young people are now beginning to see that this is a life-and-death issue. And one thing that we’re doing out here in the Hip Hop Caucus is that we have worked with so many great organizations like NRDC and Sierra Club and 350 to put forth a climate album, that is amazing, that will be coming out, and that people can get it at the climate album, the album Home, and so they can go there and get the album. But more importantly, that will become a soundtrack for the hip-hop community to become a part of this movement.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Ferguson. How do you see Ferguson—you were out in Ferguson.
REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you see Ferguson, the whole issue of the police killing of Michael Brown, 18-year-old, unarmed, linking to the issue of climate change?
REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD: Yeah, I think we’re dealing with the inequality and injustice. I think that what we’re dealing with with Michael Brown and so many others, you know, like that, is that we’re dealing with not taking any—no regard for life, that you can look at somebody, and you can say that this person has, his value, nothing. And so, either with Michael Brown, the person, or Michael Brown, the community, I think what we’re dealing with is how we can get young people engaged and how we can get the system to see that there is value in life, there is value in people, and that when you look at somebody, young or old, but particularly a young black person, that that person is valuable, and they are part of the solution and care about a solution regarding climate change or brutality or education or whatever.
AMY GOODMAN: Right now we’re seeing marchers holding up fist signs, and we see a kind of puppet, a man in costume, a skeleton with a match, with an oil rig and dynamite, all symbolic, as we bring this. You know, right now, the march has officially begun, and we see signs everywhere—Gulf Coast Fund, Communities for a Just Transition, Howard University. In fact, I’m going to see if we can walk over to the Howard University contingent and see why they’re out there. Can you tell some folks to come on up, Reverend Yearwood, from the Howard University contingent?
REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD: Most definitely.
AMY GOODMAN: And as we do that, I’m going to talk to Reginald Brown from VOCAL-New York.
REV. LENNOX YEARWOOD: Most definitely.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much. Just tell them we’re really interested in talking with the students. Reginald Brown, it’s great to see you.
REGINALD BROWN: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about—talk about why you’re here.
REGINALD BROWN: I’m here, Amy, because VOCAL-New York, which stands for Voices of Community Activists and Leaders, is here to ask Mayor de Blasio to provide funding to retrofit the infrastructure for solar panels, so that we can reduce the carbon footprint. In addition, we want him to provide funding to hire and train the formerly incarcerated people and people who have been unjustly arrested for the stop-and-frisk, and we want unions to create these jobs, because we know that unions create jobs. So that’s how we affect the climate.
AMY GOODMAN: And Mayor de Blasio, you know, just has announced a major retrofitting and upgrading of buildings to be in green compliance, if you will, which is going to mean a lot of jobs.
REGINALD BROWN: A lot of jobs.
AMY GOODMAN: And a lot of money invested, if in fact this goes through.
REGINALD BROWN: And these are the jobs that can be given to people, especially those who have been falsely incarcerated, and all of our young men of Latin descent and men of color who have been stopped and frisked, which is a very legal thing. And if they go for a job right now, if they check the box that they had been arrested, then they can’t get a job. So these are the people that need to get jobs so that they can become productive members of the society.
AMY GOODMAN: So, are you marching with a contingent?
REGINALD BROWN: Actually, I am marching with a contingent. I’m going to one that’s right over here, but we’re going to be going pretty soon. I’m part of the front line.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, thank you so much.
REGINALD BROWN: Thank you, Amy. Keep up the good work.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.
REGINALD BROWN: All right.
AMY GOODMAN: And I see Christian Parenti. I mean, there are so many people here, known and unknown. Right now, Christian Parenti, NYU professor, author of Tropic of Chaos. You deal with climate chaos around the world, Christian. Talk about Tropic of Chaos.
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Well, so, what I looked at in that book is the way in which free market economic restructuring is interacting with the legacy of U.S. militarism. So you’ve got a stripping away of the states’ capacity to regulate the economy, much of the Global South littered with cheap weapons, and now into that comes the extreme weather, climate change. So, one of the ways that a lot of people in the Global South are forced to adapt is through violence. And then this unfortunately feeds into a militarized response from the North, which is not what we need. What we need is radical mitigation of emissions immediately and a progressive redistribution of wealth globally to help people deal with adaptation, to get ready for the changes we’re locked in for.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to say, as we’re conducting this interview, Oberlin students have marched by. Howard University students have marched by. The UPROSE collective, a person carrying a sign, “Climate Chaos Affects All of Us, Climate Justice.” What does “climate justice” mean?
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Climate justice means that in the process of mitigating, reducing carbon emissions, and adaptation, dealing with the changes we’re locked in for, that social justice and a redistribution of wealth is made front and center in the process. And so, that requires taxing corporations, regulating them, and also redistributing wealth and technology from wealthy core economies in the North to economies in the Global South that can’t afford and can’t develop the necessary technology on their own. So that’s what climate justice means. And it’s led the grassroots struggles around the world for—you know, for social justice and for reconciliation with the planet.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s not only grassroots organizations who understand the impact of climate change. The Pentagon has been dealing with this.
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what the Pentagon sees as the threat here, the threat to our national security.
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: The Pentagon recognizes—I think correctly—that if we continue with business as usual, local economies are going to collapse, and more and more people will be desperate for work, and that’s going to lead to protest, religious and ethnic clashes, humanitarian crises. And to the credit of many military planners, they say, “Well, there’s limits to what we can do. But our job as the military is to put a violent lid on this chaos, which we can do for a while, but not forever.” But so, you know, that’s what the military is designed to do, and they see climate change as creating instability around the planet. And the important thing is, it’s not just climate change in isolation. Really, it’s neoliberal economics and the legacy of militarism. The more we bomb, more we like arm rebels, the more the U.S. government insists that states in the Global South cut funding for education, strip away credit supports for small farmers, the more desperate people become. And that’s what fuels violence, is this combination of bad military policy, bad economic policy and climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Christian Parenti, who’s now a professor at New York University. He’s written a number of books, among them, Tropic of Chaos. And that title?
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Well, that refers to the Global South, the spaces between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, where—there’s nothing sort of like, you know, necessarily chaotic about those spaces, but those are the places that have been impacted by colonialism and imperialism. And so, the social structures and economic structures created by imperialism in the Global South have led to massive inequality and instability. And then the policies that the U.S. and Europe have been pursuing since the end of formal colonialism, since the end of World War II and in the 1960s, have exacerbated things, because it’s been marked by frequent military intervention and essentially preventing the autonomous development of states in the Global South if they try and experiment with any kind of socialism or progressive nationalist policies or any kind of regulation and developmentalist policies. Unfortunately, the record of the Global North and the—you know, as embodied in the Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank, the IMF, has been, you know, negative and has been undermining the capacity of societies in the Global South to develop in a more just and equitable fashion, which is also the style of economic development that is going to make a society able to deal with climate change. And so, it’s about—the argument in the book is about linking militarism and the older existing critiques of imperialism and bringing climate change into that, because, unfortunately, the only people who sort of think about climate change and violence are generally on the right, and their solution is endless war on a global scale. And obviously that just exacerbates the problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian Parenti, I want to thank you for being with us, author of Tropic of Chaos, also NYU professor, contributor to The Nation magazine and other publications.
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Thanks so much.
CHRISTIAN PARENTI: Keep up the great work.
AMY GOODMAN: We are also now joined by Julia Zeeman, who is an activist from Toronto. And as Julia comes up, let’s see, “Funds for Climate Finance,” “Tax Wall Street, End Climate Change,” “Tibetans for Climate Action, “Frack” with a ban sign through it. And there’s a large contingent carrying signs that have life preservers on them, and they say, “Far Rockaway,” and I think that’s referring to—perhaps to Superstorm Sandy. So many people in the Rockaways and Long Beach and Coney Island and these areas of New York and New Jersey were hard-hit, hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy. Julia Zeeman, why did you come in from Toronto?
JULIA ZEEMAN: So, I came here representing the Federation of Community Power Cooperatives. It’s a renewable—federation of renewable energy cooperatives in Ontario. And I came here to represent a solution for the divestment, when people are pulling their money from fossil fuels. Renewable energy cooperatives is a great way to have accessible finance for a solution that distributes wealth and can provide a lot of social, economic and environmental benefits locally in your community. So I’d like to suggest looking up your local renewable energy cooperative, because there’s many that are starting to pop up, and take your money from a bank and put it into a credit union and work with them to buy bonds or shares in a renewable energy cooperative so that—you can also tie in with your RSVPs. There’s many financial mechanisms to make it accessible for everyone.
AMY GOODMAN: And the position of your government, of Prime Minister Harper?
JULIA ZEEMAN: So, he has put all—spent all of our money and has given many loopholes to the fossil fuel industry, which is the tar sands in Alberta, and is providing very little representation. However, in Ontario, we have now phased out coal and have introduced a feed-in tariff mechanism, where they’re providing a higher rate for renewable energy that can be adopted. So cooperatives have a participate or have a role to play, along with commercial developers. But I feel cooperatives are the best way to really create large-scale and real interaction with our own energy in a way that everyone can participate in.
AMY GOODMAN: And how much are Canadians involved with this? How accepted are the approaches you’re talking about?
JULIA ZEEMAN: In Ontario, it’s popping up. It’s happening in Nova Scotia, as well. And in Alberta, there is an underbelly current that’s starting to bubble. But I would say the main movement exists in Ontario.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Which contingent are you with?
JULIA ZEEMAN: I’m right with the Toronto group. There was a bus—five buses that came down with 350.org Toronto. And that’s who I’m with, and that’s who I’m representing in this convergence today.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m just wondering if we could maybe walk over and get some of the people from this march to tell us why they’re here, as they hold signs that say, “Preserve Our Communities.” Let’s see if we could get someone—if I can just walk over right now. Let’s ask some people why they’re out here. We are standing in front of a large group of people who are holding signs in the shape of life preservers. And we’re going to see if right now we can get someone to come over. Excuse me, can you come over? Can someone come over and talk about why you’re here? Can someone come over and talk about why you’re here? OK, here we have a woman. It says “Redfern Houses.” Where are the Redfern Houses? But first, start off by saying your name.
KIMBERLY COLLINS: Hello. My name is Kimberly Collins [phon.]. I live in Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway, Queens. It’s a NYCHA development. And we didn’t get that much of an impact as down the beach in Far Rockaway, but we’re here for everyone that suffered in Sandy.
AMY GOODMAN: What does climate change mean to you?
KIMBERLY COLLINS: The climate change means to me, my grandchildren may have to—may not have the same things I was able and took advantage of. And they might have to come outside in masks and things like that, come 25, 30, 50 years. So I’m out here so my grandchildren and everybody else’s grandchildren can live a good life and breathe good air and have lakes and all that good stuff.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much. “Resistance and Resilience, Belle, Sea Gate.” These are communities hard-hit by climate change, hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy. We’re joined right now—let’s see who else is here. Why don’t you come on up? I see Earth Quaker Action Team, Eileen Flanagan?
EILEEN FLANAGAN: That’s correct. We’re so excited to be here as part of the march, but we also came up yesterday and organized two nonviolent direct actions against PNC Bank. It’s part of our ongoing campaign to get them to stop financing—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain where you came from.
EILEEN FLANAGAN: I came from Philadelphia. Our organization was founded a little over four years ago in Philadelphia. But we’re really becoming national. Yesterday we had people from Florida to New England at two PNC branches, asking them to stop financing mountaintop removal coal mining, which is obviously terrible for the climate, to blow up mountains to get the last bits of coal. And it’s also terrible for the people of Appalachia, who have high rates of cancer and birth defects. So we’re working on connecting those front-line struggles to this great march and the bigger issue of climate change. And we especially want to highlight the role of people profiting from climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: Will you also be out at the Flood Wall Street action?
EILEEN FLANAGAN: I won’t be able to stay, I’m sorry to say.
AMY GOODMAN: And why are Quakers involved with this?
EILEEN FLANAGAN: Well, Quakers have a long history of involvement in social justice. The man who organized the 1963 March on Washington was actually a Quaker, Bayard Rustin. But for climate change, it, to me, is a spiritual issue and a justice issue. We believe there’s that of God in every person. So how is it OK for people in places like Africa or the islands to be suffering so much for a problem that they didn’t cause?
AMY GOODMAN: Were you engaged in an action here in New York yesterday?
EILEEN FLANAGAN: Yes. Yesterday we took over two PNC branches. We had over 90 people, from college age up to the eighties. We did a street theater climate disruption investigation. We had investigators with big, oversized magnifying glasses looking for evidence of this link between PNC’s financing and climate disruption. We had props, pictures of destroyed mountains. The first bank, we got in and sort of took over the space. And the second one, they had shut down by the time we got there, which shows, you know, they’re intimidated by us showing up.
AMY GOODMAN: Specifically PNC over other banks?
EILEEN FLANAGAN: They’re not the only bank, but they claim to be a green bank, and they’re a bank that has Quaker roots. They put a lot of money into advertising being good corporate citizens, so we want to encourage them to live up to their own PR about themselves.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Eileen Flanagan of Earth Quaker Action Team, as her T-shirt says. And I now see Jim Shultz behind us, Jim Shultz, who, when we were covering the U.N. climate summit—well, actually it wasn’t U.N., it was the People’s Summit in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Jim Shultz’s center was right there. So I guess you’ve come up, Jim, from Bolivia, from The Democracy Center there. Talk about why this march is so important.
JIM SHULTZ: Hope. You know, I think this is a crisis and a movement unlike any other, because when you work on issues of war and peace, when you work on issues of famine or disease, we know historically what the off switch looks like. We don’t know what the off switch looks like on climate change. We don’t know if there is one. And I think before we even get into strategy and action and policy and politics, people need to have hope. And I think—
AMY GOODMAN: I want to say “Rising Tides, Rising Rents” is walking by us right now. That’s the huge banner. And people are holding oversized umbrellas that say, “Displace DREAMers,” “Displace People of Color,” “Displace Island Nations,” “Displace Public Housing,” “Tax Wall Street,” “End Climate Change.” I didn’t mean to interrupt, but as the protest comes by, we’re talking about over 100,000 people. I see in the distance there are birds flying, papier-mâché birds. We’ll talk about that when we get to them. But talk about how you in Bolivia connect to this.
JIM SHULTZ: Well, you know, I think New York and Cochabamba are acupuncture points in the planet at this point, because this is obviously a very far way from Tiquipaya, you know, where I live, with dirt roads and cows. But, you know, today is the equinox. Today is one of the two days of the year in which the hemispheres of the planet line up and all have the same length of day and night. And I think that’s symbolic, because this is a planetary crisis. You have Bolivians here. You have indigenous Bolivians here. And I think when people—and there’s an event in Cochabamba today, as well as in other places in the world. So I think it’s about our interconnection, and it’s about the interconnection of citizens taking action. And I think it’s going to juice our batteries up, and that’s what we need everywhere.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, Jim, in Bolivia, in Ecuador, indigenous people have come here to speak out. At first they felt their new presidents would change things in a big way—for example, President Correa in Ecuador taking on Texaco and now Chevron. But then they found that those presidents that they saw as their savior are now taking them on—for example, drilling in the Yasuní area and in other places. Talk about what’s happening with President Morales in Bolivia.
JIM SHULTZ: Well, if you listen to the Bolivians—I was on a panel with a group of indigenous women leaders yesterday—what they’re here to talk about isn’t even climate change. They’re here to talk about issues like mining and the contamination of their water. You know, we were in Oruru a few months ago doing workshops with these communities. I think what it says is that the draw of wealth under the ground, whether it’s fossil fuels globally or whether it’s silver and gold and tin and the rest of it in a place like Bolivia, is so powerful that even these progressive governments have adopted a model of, look, if there’s wealth under the ground, yank it out and use the money. And that, I think, is the message that I hear that Latin Americans that are here saying—from Bolivia, from Ecuador, from Peru, that that’s the messages they want to get out. And I think the message for the people here in the North is we have to connect those two issues, because, in some respects, people in Latin America don’t have the luxury of front-line battles on climate change. They have the front-line battles in their backyard on issues like mining and contamination. And we need to draw the dots, connect the dots between those two. That’s the connection between the North and the South on these issues.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, the next U.N. climate summit—and Democracy Now! will be there—is in Lima, Peru. The significance of it being once again in Latin America, as was Cancún, though last year was in Warsaw, Poland?
JIM SHULTZ: Well, if you think about what New York represents, New York is the return to big-scale, international climate activism since the disappointment of Copenhagen. So you’ve got New York, Lima, and then you have Paris at the end of next year, which is the deadline for a U.N. agreement. Americans, or North Americans, really, are going to dominate New York. Europeans are going to dominate Paris. Lima is where Latin America has to have its voice. And that voice needs to not only be in Lima, it needs to carry forward to Paris, because the way that—you know this. We’ve been together in Bolivia. People in a place like Bolivia, they don’t see the world in the same way. Their concerns are different. The way they think about things is different. And that voice is fundamental that it doesn’t get lost, and Lima is the place where that has to happen, which is why it’s so great that Democracy Now! is coming to Lima, because it’s so easy for that voice to get lost.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we’re going to hear from Nydia Velázquez. She is the congressmember from New York, born in Puerto Rico, talking about the connections between climate change and immigration. Maybe we can end with that with you, Jim Shultz.
JIM SHULTZ: Well, you know, when you look at the news from the United States and you see all of the issues about the kids coming from Central America and the fact that, you know, there are people in this country who want to make sure that door stays locked, I think it is a preview of coming attractions of what affluent countries are looking at, here and in Europe especially, if we have a mass exodus of climate refugees. You are not going to keep people from trying to move where their families and their kids have a shot. And so I think that’s the teaching moment. That’s the lesson here. There is an absolute connection. I think what we’re seeing on the border right now is a preview of coming attractions. If life becomes unsustainable and dangerous for people’s kids, they are going to come to the southern border. And we need to think about what the implications of that are.
AMY GOODMAN: When do you head back to Cochabamba?
JIM SHULTZ: I’m going to head back at the end of next week.
AMY GOODMAN: And will you be participating in the Flood Wall Street action?
JIM SHULTZ: I’m going to be there on Monday.
AMY GOODMAN: Jim Shultz, thank you so much, of The Democracy Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. And we are broadcasting on the streets of New York, where more than 100,000 people, more than 100,000 people, are beginning to march. And they are carrying signs. They have floats. There are birds that are flying in the air right now. It looks like the head of the New York City Council is here. Hi.
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Hi, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s so good to see you.
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Same here.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about why you’re here and why the City Council should be involved in this issue.
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Well, we’re here marching with about 20 colleagues. We just came out—the New York City Council came out with an agenda this past week, on the eve of the summit, that really talks about how we, as New York City, can become a greener city, in terms of building code changes, in terms of really trying to cut back on fossil fuel consumption. We laid out a really comprehensive legislative agenda to look at cutting back emissions by 2050. So we have, as a legislative body of the City of New York, a responsibility to really look at how we can become more sustainable.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about what Mayor de Blasio just announced—again, Melissa Mark-Viverito is the speaker of the New York City Council—front page of The New York Times today.
AMY GOODMAN: How would you retrofit all of these city buildings? I mean, I think Mayor de Blasio was talking about reducing emissions in them by like 80 percent.
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Right, 80 percent by 2050. So, obviously, it’s a goal that you have to build toward slowly. We’ve already enacted a lot of legislative changes in the past couple of years that really talks about using better fuel, fuel that produces less emissions. There’s ways that you can give credit for people that do retrofit their buildings. And then, moving forward, in terms of new buildings, being much more green and LEED-certified. So, all of that combined will help. But it’s obviously slow steps that we have to take, but we have to be very aggressive if we’re going to make these changes happen.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you part of this bird kite contingent?
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Oh, well, we have our—our members are up ahead. We have about 20 out of the 51 city councilmembers here, which means and demonstrates the commitment that we have to this issue.
AMY GOODMAN: As a city councilmember, you’ve represented East Harlem. Talk about people of color. When it comes to climate change, why separate people of color out from any other group?
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Because, unfortunately, historically, environmental injustice has been something that has happened in our district, in our communities. Low-income communities of color are the ones where a lot of these waste transfer stations have been focused, where bus depots have been focused. And so we bear the brunt of a lot of the environmental impact and of the decisions that have been made. So it is really, really imperative—I represent the South Bronx. I represent East Harlem. We’ve had a lot of these decisions made historically. We’ve got to put pressure on this administration and future administrations on the siting of these facilities, because we need to be more aggressive on making sure that we spread the equality, that we are greener, but that in terms of bearing the burden, that’s not disproportionately in certain communities.
AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you expect to get this passed? Do you expect to face opposition? You’re the one who makes it happen at the City Council.
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: Well, it’s an aggressive agenda, but we are committed to really starting to push forward some of this legislation. Now that the mayor has indicated he is also on board, I think it really will inspire us and motivate us to be—to move on it more quickly. So, we’re going to move on this really, really quick. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Melissa Mark-Viverito, thank you very much for joining us, the speaker of the New York City Council, as we turn now to a longtime civil rights activist, David Goodman of Antioch College. Now, no relation exactly, but David is Andrew Goodman’s brother. Andrew Goodman was one of the three, along with James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, the three civil rights activists who in 1963 [sic] were killed in Mississippi, killed by—would you say the Klan, David?
DAVID GOODMAN: Well, the Ku Klux Klan, the White Knights of the Mississippi Ku Klux Klan. That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: And the date was?
DAVID GOODMAN: June 21st, 1964.
AMY GOODMAN: 1964. So that was, oh, 50 years ago. What are you doing out here, Andrew’s brother, on the streets of Central Park?
DAVID GOODMAN: Well, that’s a good question. First of all, Amy, it’s always great to be in New York City, where I was born and raised a couple of blocks from here, and being with you on your show. This event is really a milestone in our history, in our nation. And in 1964 and before, the civil rights movement was where people came together, all types of people, all colors, all races, all religions. And that’s what we have here. And it’s important.
So, I’m a trustee of Antioch College. Antioch College has always had a history of social justice. And we’ve reinvented our view of education, just for young adults and also for us, aged people, everybody. We begin with a premise that the way we live is not sustainable, and we have to find new and better ways of living. And one thing that we’ve done, besides looking at our education globally, is experientially and scholastically, but our physical campus, for instance, which is 1,100 acres, we’ve ripped out all the fossil fuel capability. We have central geothermal heat pump plants that are now—we’re now, as of this week, actually, building a million-watt photovoltaic five-acre facility. So we’re as close to a zero carbon footprint as any campus in the United States of America.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you say to other schools?
DAVID GOODMAN: We believe this is a model. We can do it. We did it. Antioch does not have a mega-endowment. We did it because we have the will to do it. And the Board of Trustees, the students, the faculty are all in agreement that we have to find new ways to live on the planet, to not just thrive, but to survive. And that’s what we’re doing. And we’ve done it. It’s up and running. People should come and see it. We want everybody to do this.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at signs right now that say, “Climate change is the symptom. Capitalism is the disease. Socialism is the cure.” And then ahead, right [inaudible] banner—this is one of the major blocs, We Can Build the Future. And We Can Build the Future is one of the large blocs of people who are talking about solutions. We’re talking to David Goodman. David Goodman is the brother of Andrew Goodman and an engineer in his own right, working with Antioch College to—really to retrofit it, to rebuild it.
DAVID GOODMAN: That’s right. And it’s not that hard. People say, “It’s too expensive. We can’t do it.” We’re in the 21st century. We’ve got to stop living in the 19th and 20th century. We’re here. We can do it. We have all the technology. It’s a political will issue. Total will. That’s all we need, is will.
AMY GOODMAN: OK, we’re looking at—let’s see—signs that say, “Ban Fracking.” Well, they’re the frack sign with a ban symbol through it. “Houston, we have a problem,” “Moms’ Clean Air Force: Fighting for Our Kids’ Health,” “Everyday People Have the Power.” A little kid holding up a sign, “100 percent renewable.” Thank you very much, David, for joining us.
DAVID GOODMAN: OK. Thank you, Amy. Good seeing you.
AMY GOODMAN: And let’s see who’s up next. Why don’t you come on over? Come on over. And why don’t you introduce yourselves? Why don’t you stand right here? And what are your names?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: My name is Nylu.
ADEDAYO PERKOVICH: And my name is Adedayo.
AMY GOODMAN: And what are you doing here?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: We’re at the climate march.
AMY GOODMAN: OK, so I see—your name is?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: Nylu.
AMY GOODMAN: Your name is Nylu. And I see right here, Nylu, you have a notebook, you have a pen, and you have a tape recorder that says ”IndyKids.” How old are you?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: I’m nine.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you doing?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: I’m interviewing people for the newspaper.
AMY GOODMAN: For IndyKids newspaper? And what are you doing here? How old are you?
ADEDAYO PERKOVICH: I’m 11 years old.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Adedayo, you’re holding a tape recorder. Oh, wait, you’re holding up the newspaper, right? This is IndyKids. And this edition says “The Bullying Effect.” But talk about what you’re asking people.
ADEDAYO PERKOVICH: Well, we’re asking them like why they’re supporting the march and what effect they’re hoping to have on like the climate change issues, and like why they’re here today.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s important always to hold the microphone close to your subject’s mouth, which is what I’m trying to do with you, so you can make sure you record them properly. Now, what do you think of this march?
ADEDAYO PERKOVICH: I think it’s important to let people know about climate change, because sooner or later we won’t be able to turn back and make things better. And I think that, like, kids like me will have—if we change this climate, kids like me will have like a place to live in the future.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Nylu, do you plan on being a reporter when you grow up?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it certainly looks like you’ve got a great start there. Can you read me a little from your notes? What is—these are your questions? Can you read me what your first question is?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: “Why are you here at the People’s Climate March today?”
AMY GOODMAN: And what is your second question?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: “What do you think could be accomplished with this march?”
AMY GOODMAN: And what is your third question?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: “Have you ever been in a march like this before?”
AMY GOODMAN: And have you?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: No.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever been in a march like this?
ADEDAYO PERKOVICH: Yeah, for like testing, standardized tests.
AMY GOODMAN: Ah, you were protesting standardized testing.
ADEDAYO PERKOVICH: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Nylu and Adedayo, I thank you so much. These are my colleagues in the press. And, Adedayo, again, you are how old?
ADEDAYO PERKOVICH: Eleven.
AMY GOODMAN: And you are?
NYLU AVERY BERNSHTAYN: Nine.
AMY GOODMAN: Nine years old. Best of luck to you. Let me know what some of the answers are to those questions. As we turn right now to someone who is slightly older, we’re going to turn now to Charlie Cray. Charlie, I won’t ask you your age. I know you’re not nine, and I know you’re not 11 or 14. But why are you out here today with Greenpeace?
CHARLIE CRAY: Well, Greenpeace is primarily out here to draw attention to preventing Shell from drilling in the Arctic. One of the things we’ve also done this week is release a new report called “The Kingpins of Carbon and Their War on Democracy,” to draw attention to the connections between the Koch brothers and their network of wealthy centimillionaires and billionaires and the large-spending executives from the fossil fuel companies and the attacks on democracy, particularly the three Supreme Court cases—McCutcheon, Citizens United and the Shelby County case—and the fact that a lot of the people driving that case are funded by think tanks and front groups that get money from the fossil fuel industry and the Koch brothers. So, for instance, most people know the money-in-politics side of the story. What’s lesser reported is the Shelby County case and the fact that that was supported by a foundation known as—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain where Shelby County is.
CHARLIE CRAY: Shelby County is the Supreme Court decision that eviscerated a part of the Voting Rights Act, one of the seminal achievements of the civil rights movement 50 years ago. And they struck down the provision that required certain jurisdictions to get pre-approval from the Department of Justice before they could change their election rules. And this is in concert with all the other attacks on voting rights—gerrymandering, voter ID laws, etc. And the support for the case was organized, once the Supreme Court accepted it, by a foundation that the Kochs and other billionaires give money to, known as the Donors Trust. And—Donors Trust. So, the story is normally that this maverick attorney named Ed Blum brought the case up, when in fact once the Supreme Court took it, the gears of the conservative corporate movement went into motion to bring much more support for the decision both in the media but also within the legal system.
AMY GOODMAN: What were you most surprised by in your “Kingpins of Carbon”?
CHARLIE CRAY: “Kingpins of Carbon and Their War on Democracy,” right. The number of companies, the top executives, out of just 1,200 individuals, that spent the most they could, and before McCutcheon, that was what they called “only”—McCutcheon himself was a coal baron—$123,000. Now, of course, because of McCutcheon, any individual can give three-and-a-half million directly to campaigns and party committees, in addition to what they can channel through dark-money nonprofits and superPACs. So, of the ones who gave the most in the last election cycle, 88 were—are directly connected to the fossil fuel industry, and 69 have been named, where there are many others who haven’t been named, as either attending those secret Koch brother retreats, like the one that Mitch McConnell went to this June and said that, “Thanks to the Supreme Court, you can spend as much money as you want,” addressing an audience of these wealthy billionaires who coordinate their strategy through groups like the Koch brother front groups who are spending $400 million, estimated amount, this election cycle, as well as these foundations that support the nonprofit front groups that are driving the climate denial, to create a debate and slow down action. You know, we have national security leaders saying that climate is a top national security threat. We have scientists. We have health professionals. And we have public opinion polls that show 80 percent of the public across the political spectrum want action. The only place we’re really getting major obstruction is Congress. And that’s because of the power of the Koch brothers and their ability to be a gatekeeper for the Republican Party.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think this is an answer to that?
CHARLIE CRAY: This is part of the answer, absolutely. One of the things that we also have to do is overturn Citizens United with the constitutional amendment that was voted on a couple of weeks ago, where we already have 55 senators in support. And after the election, we’ve got to start getting bipartisan support. It’s people out in the public, again, across the political spectrum. The Republican base supports overturning Citizens United. It’s the Republican Party, tightly controlled by these plutocrats, that’s been resisting.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much, Charlie, for joining us, as we look at the signs and the people. We are looking at signs that say, “Love Our Planet, Turn Off Lights, Turn Out Deniers.” Charlie Cray is with Greenpeace. “Climate Action, It’s Our Obligation.” I mean, it is a sea of signs, of people, of floats, of kites, of musicians. And by the way, coming up is two minutes of silence and then a mass sound—someone called it the burglar alarm—that will go off for two minutes, talking about the people who are stealing this planet. We’re joined right now by Sonia Guiñansaca of CultureStrike. Did I pronounce your name correctly?
SONIA GUIÑANSACA: Yes, Sonia Guiñansaca.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Sonia Guiñansaca, you’re wearing a T-shirt that says, “Undocumented, Unafraid, Unapologetic.” That is really the motto of the DREAMer and immigrants’ rights movement. How does that relate to climate change?
SONIA GUIÑANSACA: Yeah, so, I’m actually here with CultureStrike, and we’re a national network of artists, musicians, that focus on migrant justice. And so, one of the things that we wanted to showcase is that climate change affects, you know, front-line folks like migrant communities, where there’s a forced migration happening. And so, we want to acknowledge that, but also say, you know, we’re here, we’re unafraid, we’re here also to fight for Mother Earth.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain the term “CultureStrike.”
SONIA GUIÑANSACA: So, CultureStrike is people who do cultural organizing—musicians, artists, a poet like myself. You know, we’re here for the community. You know, we’re here. We see art as, you know, central to social change, and we want to make sure that we’re here and also offering our art and our creativity to imagine what change and what climate justice looks like.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any poem you’d like to share with us?
SONIA GUIÑANSACA: At the moment, no. Mostly, I’ve been running around. But, you know, again, people can check out CultureStrike.org. And a lot of undocumented artists actually were part of this, were designing the birds, the puppets. So we’re here loud, screaming out loud visually.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the birds and the puppets.
SONIA GUIÑANSACA: Yeah, so, many of the species that we wanted to include in the parade were cranes, the monarch butterfly, who are being affected by climate change. But it also represents, you know, migrants and our right to migrate and to have a life full of dignity. And so, that’s what we wanted to do with many of the species, many of the animals, the cranes, the turtles.
AMY GOODMAN: And who made them?
SONIA GUIÑANSACA: They were done by different artists across the country. But specifically in New York, we commissioned two documented artists from El Salvador and Mexico. And so—and they’re also women of color. We wanted to make sure women of color are at the forefront of this.
AMY GOODMAN: And where do you come from?
SONIA GUIÑANSACA: I come from Ecuador. I came here at the age of five. I am still undocumented 20 years later. So, all of this, the intersection of climate justice, climate change and migration comes full end.
AMY GOODMAN: And how do you see climate change affecting your home country, Ecuador?
SONIA GUIÑANSACA: Yeah, there’s a lot of privatization of water. There’s a lot of, you know, people being force-migrated from their villages. I come from an indigenous background, and so our right to land has been destroyed, you know, countless over the years.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for being with us.
SONIA GUIÑANSACA: Thank you so much.
AMY GOODMAN: CultureStrike here on Democracy Now!, as we broadcast live from the streets of the largest people’s climate action, the largest People’s Climate March in history, one of the largest protest marches ever in the United States. And we’re just in the midst of it. We certainly haven’t been able to count, but I know that people are actually stationed at different places in this march to be able to bring us a count later on in the day. Again, not too far from now, there will be two minutes of silence and then a mass sound, whatever that will be—people with musical instruments, shouting, whistling—a kind of burglar alarm for those who are stealing the planet, the organizers say, a wake-up call for the planet. We are joined right now by Jennifer Bernard and Irene Jor of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. I welcome you both to this Democracy Now! broadcast.
JENNIFER BERNARD: Thank you. Thank you.
IRENE JOR: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Here we are on the streets of New York, on Central Park West, right near, right above Columbus Circle. The march has been in process now for over an hour. Tell us where you’re from.
JENNIFER BERNARD: I’m from Brooklyn. I represent one of the 200,000 domestic workers in the state of New York. And I’m here to support the climate march. It’s important that the cleaners from our organization understand how chemicals can affect them in the job that they do.
IRENE JOR: I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, but I work in New York with domestic workers here right now.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about your concerns.
IRENE JOR: For us, across the country, domestic workers are impacted by climate change in ways people have not been paying attention to. Migrant women workers are disproportionately impacted by the ways that resources are extracted from their home countries, thus leading them to migrate to here from the Global South. Additionally, they send home remittances, and often we’ve had members, like in the Philippines this year with—sorry, with Typhoon Yolanda, where members were sending remittances home and helping rebuild and recover, but that didn’t stop the destruction that was happening at home for them. In addition to that, often, you know, when there’s sort of these natural disasters, women’s labor are sort of the first things that are most deeply exploited and extracted the way natural resources are.
AMY GOODMAN: Jennifer, talk about those chemicals.
JENNIFER BERNARD: Well, I represent the nannies of New York, but the cleaners are part of our main organization. We have cleaners, nannies and home health aid. And they have been working with chemicals that have been very much—it’s important that they get the right chemicals to work with, because it affects their health, and they know they’re not covered by health at all, you know, as a domestic worker. So it’s important that we get it. And I have learned, too, that the voice of the people is important. If we get together and we really voice, we’re going to be heard. So it’s important that I stand up for the domestic workers, the cleaners of the Domestic Workers Alliance.
AMY GOODMAN: And how many people are in your contingent?
JENNIFER BERNARD: Well, there are 200,000 domestic workers in the state of New York alone. And we have approximately maybe 200 of the domestic workers, which include other organizations, a part of our alliance.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, the National Domestic Workers Alliance. There are thousands of groups who are represented here. Again, we’re about half an hour away from that two-minute moment of silence and then the loud noise that will be heard, who knows how far. We’re right in the middle of Manhattan. And I believe I see Mary Robinson and the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony deBrum. I welcome you both to Democracy Now! Nice to see you again.
MARY ROBINSON: Nice to see you.
AMY GOODMAN: Why are you here? Let’s begin with Mary Robinson, who is also one of the Elders. These are the Elders of the world, originally convened by Nelson Mandela, the late president of South Africa, to serve as the wise ones to advise us on global issues.
MARY ROBINSON: I’m delighted to be here with my fellow Elder, Gro Brundtland, because we want people all over the world to come out and demand that their leaders change course. I was in Samoa with Tony deBrum and other leaders of the small island developing states, and they had tears in their eyes at times, because the situation has become so serious. But it has affected New York. It affects everywhere now. And we are not on course for a safe world. We need to go below two degrees Celsius. And we’ll have this climate summit in two days’ time, and the leaders of the world have to hear the pressure, not just in New York, but all over the world today.
AMY GOODMAN: Mary Robinson is the former president of Ireland. How is Ireland affected by climate change?
MARY ROBINSON: Ireland is very aware. Our taoiseach will be here and speaking for Ireland at this summit. And Ireland is part of the EU, the European countries, and they have a very important decision to make in October. They must accept the commission package for a 40 percent reduction of emissions by 2030. And that is vital so that we can start to get back on a good course, a good pathway, to stay below two degrees Celsius.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Mr. deBrum, the Marshall Islands.
TONY DEBRUM: Six feet above sea level, sitting in the middle of the Pacific, one of the five most vulnerable atoll countries in the world. I join Ms. Robinson in saying that we consider this to be a wonderful occasion to be able to tell the world that the problem of climate change is now, and we must deal with it now.
AMY GOODMAN: And why did you come here?
TONY DEBRUM: Came here for the summit, UNGA, but also for this march.
MARY ROBINSON: The summit will have 120 or more than 120 heads of state or government. We think a lot about Copenhagen, where there were 94. It’s a bigger meeting of heads of state. And the small island states are leading on a lot of this, moving to zero carbon, doing so much.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how the small island states are organizing.
TONY DEBRUM: How they are organized?
AMY GOODMAN: Yeah.
TONY DEBRUM: We have the association of small island—the Alliance of Small Island States, all here present also. The small island developing states, called SIDS, that’s the meeting that Ms. Robinson refers to that we attended in Samoa last week, where we were able to sit down and talk as vulnerable countries about what is happening. They’re all here. And we intend to make our voices heard.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think of this mass protest?
TONY DEBRUM: I’ve never been to anything like this in my entire life.
AMY GOODMAN: You don’t have marches like these in Marshall Islands?
TONY DEBRUM: No, no.
MARY ROBINSON: Wonderful, because there are people old and young. There’s an angry grandmother. I’m a grandmother. I think a lot about my grandchildren and their world in the future. There are indigenous. There are so many different people, from the Bronx, from everywhere.
AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned the U.N. summit on Tuesday.
MARY ROBINSON: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s been a lot of concern that the presence, the large presence, of corporations is going to, in some way, change the possibility of what can happen.
MARY ROBINSON: Well, I think the people’s march has to influence what people think, that it’s a human rights issue, it’s a justice issue. We do need corporations to change, there’s no doubt about that. And we need to get out of fossil fuel, which will be a big fight in itself, but we have to do it. And there are corporations that want to move faster and want to go to renewables and are doing their own, you know, shadow carbon pricing. And so, all of that is needed. We can’t exclude them, because they are responsible for a lot of the fossil fuels, and they have to change, and they know it. So, I would be encouraging of everybody getting involved. And that’s why this march is such an inclusive one that’s very moving.
AMY GOODMAN: And how will it affect the United Nations? Or will it? I understand, though I haven’t seen him, Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, is marching today.
MARY ROBINSON: Yeah, he will be at about 51st Street, the secretary-general.
TONY DEBRUM: He’s here. He’s here.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much, Mr. deBrum and Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. People are chanting. They’re massing. Linda Oalican is with us now, with the Damayan Migrant Workers Association. Tell us where you’ve come in from?
LINDA OALICAN: Yeah, I’m from the Philippines. I’ve been here for about 20 years. So, our organization is over 10 years. Yeah, our organization, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, has been organizing Filipino domestic workers for over 10 years in the city.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, the Philippines, the Typhoon Haiyan was the most powerful typhoon to make landfall in the history of the world.
LINDA OALICAN: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the effects, even still, even today.
LINDA OALICAN: Yes. So, you know, it’s very sad, you know, that our own government is minimizing the impact of the devastation. Like once Typhoon Haiyan devastated our country, our members here instantly felt the impact. You know, their families, who are survivors of the typhoon in Central Visayas, have lost their livelihoods, so, as a result, have been asking for more help from their family member who are here. So, our members, who are mostly middle-aged women, been working here for 10 years, 15 years, right now, all of a sudden, they are starting from the start. Like, you know, they have to work harder in their middle age, and just to send remittances back home. So that’s the impact. That’s why our group joined the national campaign for the temporary protected status, so that these women workers can have immigration protection while they do their jobs as babysitters, as housekeepers, yeah. But unfortunately, you know, we have not been granted the TPS. Yes, so, our country—we have members, you know, who are from Cagayan de Oro, a part of Mindanao, the southernmost part, that have been saying that, you know, they don’t know typhoons in their province. But now there are regular typhoons, strong typhoons, that are displacing their families and their communities.
AMY GOODMAN: And who brought you here from the Philippines?
LINDA OALICAN: Who brought me here?
AMY GOODMAN: Yeah, who—the whole contingent of folks who have come with you?
LINDA OALICAN: Well, we have been invited by 350.org and [inaudible] Action, because we’ve been campaigning for TPS, and they know that climate change is one of the issues that our organization is addressing, because it directly impacts our members whose families are still struggling to make both ends to survive in the Philippines.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for being with us. We hear the helicopters overhead. I want to turn to Bernie Sanders, who is the senator from Vermont, who may well run for president of the United States. We had a chance to interview him before the march began—he is here at the march—to talk to him about the issue of climate change, also the possibility of what ticket he will run on. Would he be an independent? Would he run for the Democratic nomination? I’m just going to see if I can get a signal whether that tape is ready, and as soon as I do—let’s turn right now to Bernie Sanders.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I’m here with about a thousand Vermonters and several hundred thousand Americans who understand that global warming is real, that it is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world, that it will only get worse if we do not act aggressively to cut carbon and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. This is a huge issue. It’s a planetary crisis. We’ve got to act, and we have to act boldly.
AMY GOODMAN: One of the signs and one of the mantras here is: “We need system change, not climate change.” What does that mean to you?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, of course you need climate change. I mean, you know, we are—the scientist community tells us we have a narrow opportunity to move. You have to do that. But you also have to change the system, because, I mean, among many other things, one of the reasons that we have virtually no Republican in Congress who even acknowledges the reality of climate change is because of all the money in politics. So, we are not going to change politics in America unless we, you know, deal with the Koch brothers and the other billionaires who are now trying to buy elections. Furthermore, if we live in a society which is based on simply purchasing, purchasing, purchasing, consumerism, consumerism, consumerism, more and more development, without understanding sustainability, we’ll have long-term problems.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you deal with money in politics?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, first of all you do is overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision called Citizens United, which gave a green light to the Koch brothers and the other billionaires to buy elections. The second thing that you do—
AMY GOODMAN: How do you overturn it?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Through a strong grassroots movement. And we had a vote a week ago, which the media forgot to cover—New York Times didn’t cover it at all—in which every single Republican voted against allowing us to proceed to a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. So that’s number one. That’s what you have to do. Number two, what you have to do, in my view, is move toward public funding of elections. I think it is just not appropriate that people who have the money or the support of people who have the money can buy elections.
AMY GOODMAN: The issue of whether you will run for president and what that means for a presidential candidate to be here at the climate march? Number one, will you be running for president?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, number one, I would be here no matter what my thoughts were. This is an issue I’ve been involved in for many, many, many years. You know, it’s no secret I’m giving thought to the possibility of running for president, getting around the country a little bit. But that decision is not going to be made for a little while.
AMY GOODMAN: Attending an event last night where you were speaking, the question of whether you would be running as a third-party candidate or as a Democratic Party candidate for president?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, that’s something also. There are advantages and disadvantages of going both routes. Very difficult. On one hand, there is a lot of unhappiness with the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. More and more people are looking to alternatives, looking to become independents. On the other hand, from a practical point of view, putting together a 50-state independent political infrastructure, that ain’t so easy either. So that’s one of the issues that I’m looking at. But mostly, here today, I am just delighted that we’re going to have hundreds of thousands of people who say, “Enough is enough. We’ve got to begin the process of reversing global warming.”
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think President Obama is doing enough around the issue of climate change?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I mean, I think he is trying. I wouldn’t say that he’s doing enough. He can and should do more. But the major impediment right now is not Obama, it is the Republican Party. And we’ve got to call them out on this, you know? And we don’t do it enough. These are people who do not even acknowledge the scientific reality, because they’re beholden to Big Energy money and the Koch brothers. That’s where we have to be focused.
AMY GOODMAN: If you were president, what would you do about climate change?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We would move very aggressively to transform our energy system. And we could do this, Amy. There is unbelievable opportunity in terms of weatherization and energy efficiency. The technology is there now for massive efforts in terms of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass done properly. We could do it. We really could do it. And, clearly, this is a global problem, not just an American problem. What we could do in the United States is provide the technology and the support working with other countries around the world. But this is a crisis. We’ve got to address it.
AMY GOODMAN: There are scores of buses coming in from Vermont.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Maybe the most represented state per capita in the entire country.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Yes, I think that’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: Governor Shumlin recently said he would consider the state divesting from fossil fuels, a call that’s being made by 350.org, another Vermont resident, Bill McKibben, your neighbor.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I think it’s a great—I think it’s a great idea. I mean, we went through this with tobacco. We went with this through South Africa. And I think that it’s a great idea, and I applaud the governor for supporting it.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. And you’ve been listening to Senator Bernie Sanders, who—well, you heard it right here: He is weighing running for president. A very interesting question: Would he run as a third-party candidate or as a—run on the Democratic Party ticket? And that’s what he is weighing today. He said he’s not interested in an educational campaign; he’s interested in running, if he does. He also spoke about this last night at All Souls Church to a packed house of hundreds.
Yes, we are here at the largest climate march in history. Helicopters are hovering overhead. Tens of thousands of people have passed us so far. As to the final number, whether it’s 100,000 or 200,000, we will see. But we know, is that this has been historic. Signs everywhere. “My kids have known for years,” says one. “Wake up, world!” says another.
Well, right now, this is a blast from the past, because a few years ago, when Democracy Now! started going to the U.N. climate summits, the first one we went to was in Copenhagen in 2009. We went on to Cancún, to Doha, to Durban, to Warsaw, Poland. We were at the People’s Summit in Cochabamba, Bolivia. This year we’re going on to Peru and then next year to Paris. But that very first one in Copenhagen was freezing. And the person who was outside singing to a mass crowd—not as large as this one, but it was pretty big—was Angélique Kidjo, and she joins us here in slightly lighter wear.
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: Oh, you said it all. We were freezing that day, or what? But we were determined to make the message of climate change heard, for the Danish people, because they are really on the forefront of this. They understand what it is, because their country is also at danger. And I’m so happy to be here today. I’ve flown in yesterday, just to be sure that I make it here, because everything evolves around the climate. If we don’t have an Earth, there’s no concert, there’s no you, there’s no me, there’s no future for our children. We need—and what is interesting today for me to see in New York is the young generation coming in to march with us, and very young age to older, older, which means that we are already preparing the next generation to continue this fight for them to have a future and the generation that follows to have a future. So, it’s everybody’s responsibility, as much as you and me standing here doing it since Copenhagen, to make sure that the leaders of this world hear it.
AMY GOODMAN: Angélique Kidjo, you’re a singer. You’re an Oxfam ambassador, as well. You’re constantly explaining climate change. But for those who would say, “Well, if it was freezing in Copenhagen, that proves there’s no global warming”?
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: Well, global warming is not only talking about heat. It’s talking about extreme cold, I mean, the extreme cold that never existed in the month they existed. At the time we were in Copenhagen, even the Danish people were like, “We’ve never seen this cold ever in this month of years.” So, it’s not only heat, it’s not only cold. It’s the balance of the ecosystem that we are playing with that is a danger for us. Whoever lived in New York know how Sandy was devastating for us. And Sandies bigger than Sandy are coming, if we do nothing.
AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: I was born in Benin, West Africa, and raised there. And every time I go back, all the time I hear from the women that sell their goods in the market how hard it is for them to have more and more goods to sell because the climate is changing and the tomatoes don’t ripen at the same time. The corn don’t—I mean, it’s just that, nonstop. Who are paying the price of climate change? The women of Africa. They are the one that cook the food. They are the one that make the balance between the family, the community and their own children. And the scarcity of food is also linked to climate change. How are we going to feed the next generation? Agriculture is becoming more and more complicated. We have so much drought. We don’t have the food that we need, enough food to sustain our life.
AMY GOODMAN: Is there any chance you could sing a song a cappella for our viewers and listeners all over the country and all over the world?
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: Well, probably.
AMY GOODMAN: Maybe if you look over—
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: We’ll do that.
AMY GOODMAN: Look into this camera.
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: OK.
AMY GOODMAN: And here’s the microphone. You can hold it.
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: So, I will sing the first song I sang when I was six years old, where we use the drum to invite everybody to come and listen to a message and to be part of that message and to be part of the change. So it goes like this: [singing] Thank you so much.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what the—that is Angélique Kidjo, the inimitable Angélique Kidjo, in a free performance here on the streets of Central Park. In fact, you are going to be performing down at 11th Avenue, right?
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: Yeah, 36th and 11th at the Oxfam food truck.
AMY GOODMAN: At what time?
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: At 2:00 p.m.
AMY GOODMAN: At 2:00 p.m., oh. So, tell us what the words meant.
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: The word means that the drums of all morality and of all rules of law and the rule of morality and for human being is calling all of us together, not to worry about the problems, but to worry about how we find the solution for it, that everybody’s part of it. It does not matter how rich or poor you are. It doesn’t matter where you come from. Gather together, listen to this drum, that count everybody in, that is colorless. The sound of it is colorless, national-less. It’s just about us as a human family, how we use what nature gave us to prevail.
AMY GOODMAN: Could I be greedy and ask for one more?
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: Well, you want one more, I’ll give you one more, one, a thanking one. [singing]
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what that song said.
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: I said, “Quietly, tenderly and respectfully, I thank everybody that comes today to give their voice, to participate. And I wish them well on the way of going back, because they were well coming in here, that what we’re doing for Earth cannot be harmful, so therefore I wish for each single person here today to go back home safely.”
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Angélique Kidjo, I thank you so much for being with us, singing to the helicopters buzzing overhead and to the tens of thousands of people who are here, maybe hundreds of thousands. We will see.
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: Well, that’s what Earth gave me. Earth gave me the voice. Mother Nature gave me the voice. And as my mom and the traditional musicians in my country say, they always say, “It’s not yours to keep. It’s yours to share, and to implore people to take a lead in their own life and to transform the world they live in.”
AMY GOODMAN: Well, thank you, Angélique, for transforming ours.
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: Thank you so much, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Angélique Kidjo. She’ll be at 36th—
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: Thirty-sixth and 11th.
AMY GOODMAN: Thirty-sixth and 11th at 2:00. She’ll be singing at the other end of this march. People are marching from Columbus Circle, from Central Park West, all the way up from 80th, and I can still see down dozens of streets. You never see the end of this march. It’s the largest People’s Climate March in history. It’s one of the largest political gatherings ever in this country. I’m Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! This is a live broadcast from the streets of New York. But it’s more than the streets of New York. It’s really the streets of the planet, because so many people have come from all over the planet. From Angélique Kidjo, born in Benin, the great singer, we turn now to Eugene Puryear, who is a D.C. Council candidate in Washington, D.C.
EUGENE PURYEAR: Yes, ma’am, yes. And I’m just so happy to be here, Amy. I mean, we know we need climate action locally, nationally, internationally. And this event is just a perfect coming together. People have been here since Friday night. The energy is great. And this is exactly the movement we need.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk about how climate change will weigh into a D.C. primary or election.
EUGENE PURYEAR: It’s going to weigh in in a big way. I mean, the District of Columbia, we’re doing a lot in terms of pushing clean energy, and we’ve got a lot of energy for it, but we know that to move to a clean energy future, it’s going to require us to have more sustainability in our buildings. We’re trying to do things like priority permitting to encourage people to build more LEED Gold buildings, to allow renters to put solar panels on top of their properties so they can have all sorts of clean and renewable energy, to clean up our rivers, and to continue to educate people through our education system, through our D.C. public schools, about the importance of climate justice.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you come to run for public office? Where do you come from?
EUGENE PURYEAR: I come originally come from Charlotteville, Virginia. I’ve been living in D.C. for 10 years. I’ve been a social justice activist for those 10 years. And I was tired of people claiming they represented our social justice goals, like climate justice, affordable housing, but just paying lip service to them when they actually got there. And so, I wanted to be someone who wasn’t just going to talk about things, but was going to promote solutions that met the scale of our problems.
AMY GOODMAN: So how does the election work at the D.C. Council level?
EUGENE PURYEAR: At the D.C. Council at large, what we have this year is we have a top two, basically. There’s 15 candidates in the race, and the top two will win. So, I’m Eugene Puryear, Statehood Green Party, EugenePuryear.com, and I hope people help us out.
AMY GOODMAN: Has any Green Party candidate ever won for D.C. Council?
EUGENE PURYEAR: Green Party candidates have won, and we’re also connected with the old Statehood Party that was around for years and had representation on the council for almost 30 unbroken years.
AMY GOODMAN: So, shouldn’t you be in the streets of D.C. right now campaigning as opposed to here in New York?
EUGENE PURYEAR: Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m going right back to it, but it was extremely important for me to be here, because I thought that every body necessary to send a message to all the world leaders that people all around this world and all around this country are united. I thought that was the most important thing.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much, Eugene Puryear—
EUGENE PURYEAR: Thank you so much for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: —D.C. Council candidate on the Green Party ticket. And the people are just coming and coming. “The tide is turning,” says one sign. “Stop tar sands,” says another. Ah, let’s see, I see one that says, “Psychologists for Social Responsibility,” and another, “Mental Health Workers,” with a big sign that says, “Anxiety is appropriate.” Yes, we are broadcasting from the People’s Climate March, and we’re joined by Barnali Ghosh right now with South Asians for Climate Justice. Hi, Barnali.
BARNALI GHOSH: Hi.
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you come in from for this march?
BARNALI GHOSH: I’m from Berkeley, California. So, we are here. We’re calling ourselves South Asians for Climate Justice, informally known as Brown and Green, BrownAndGreen.org. And we are here organizing a South Asians for Climate Justice contingent, which comprises of folks like the Bangladesh Environment Network, which is based here in New York, with EcoSikh, which is a religious—a faith-based environmental organization. We are marching with other groups like Chhaya CDC, Adhikar and the Indo-Caribbean Alliance, which is also based in New York. So we are coming together to really, as South Asians in the U.S., demand that President Obama take action on climate change, because even as we live here, it is our homelands that are the front lines.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about these areas that you represent and how climate change affects them.
BARNALI GHOSH: Yeah. So, South Asia is India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka. Bangladesh and India, if you look at the risk index, we are right there on the top. We just had floods, huge floods, in Kashmir. Last year, we had floods in Pakistan. In Bangladesh, there’s both drought and flooding. And all of these conditions are being made worse because of emissions. And folks in these countries, they’re fighting. They’re adapting. But the kind of adaptation they’re doing, they cannot win if we don’t also reduce emissions or provide donations or provide money to the Climate Fund to support a lot of those adaptations.
AMY GOODMAN: Are the people who are standing behind you holding signs with you? I see—are you all—
BARNALI GHOSH: They’re from—
AMY GOODMAN: Can you come forward a little bit? Just stand much closer?
BARNALI GHOSH: They’re from a group called EcoSikh.
AMY GOODMAN: Say again.
BARNALI GHOSH: EcoSikh. Show your T-shirt. T-shirt.
BANDANA KAUR: T-shirt, right here.
BARNALI GHOSH: EcoSikh. So this is one of the groups that we’re marching with. And our other contingent is all up front there. And we’re holding signs like “Defend our homes, defend our homelands,” hashtag “#decolonizetheclimate,” because for us it’s all about the U.S. taking responsibility for the historic contributions it’s made towards climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: Maybe you could each say your name. Let’s start with EcoSikh.
BANDANA KAUR: My name is Bandana Kaur, and I’m with EcoSikh.
AMY GOODMAN: And where are you originally from?
BANDANA KAUR: I’m from New York, actually, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And so—but you’re marching with this group.
BANDANA KAUR: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And your family is originally from?
BANDANA KAUR: Yes, I grew up with my family, my great-grandmother, my grandparents, my parents, that are all from the Punjab region of South Asia, which is now between two countries. But initially, you know, Sikhs primarily are farmers within this region. And what we’re seeing is that the majority of our community is facing real problems from the effects of climate change on agriculture and our land.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is your name?
ALMEET KAUR: My name is Almeet Kaur, and we’re actually from the Junior Sikh Coalition, which is—
AMY GOODMAN: From?
ALMEET KAUR: We’re from—I’m from New York, Queens, New York. But the Junior Sikh Coalition is basically a group of youth leaders under the Sikh Coalition, and we’re speaking for social justice. And the reason we’re here is because if we’re going to fight for our community with—for social justice, for equality among all, we need a community to fight for, and we are here to preserve the climate, to preserve our Mother Earth, to preserve our future generations, and make sure there is an opportunity for them to live the opportunities we get from nature, from the Earth, that we can, that they can get it, too.
AMY GOODMAN: I also see you’re wearing a “Without Hate” T-shirt. How does the issue of hate and hate violence relate to climate change, if it does at all?
ALMEET KAUR: Well, so hate between humans is actually something that’s becoming kind of prevalent now. And that’s another reason why we’re wearing this, is to put out the idea that the only way we can eliminate this hate factor is if we join forces, is if we unite. And if we are united, if EcoSikh, Junior Sikh Coalition, if we are here to help everyone else bring out the message of keeping our climate alive, keeping our Mother Earth alive, that is the only way we can end hate between humans and the hate to our Mother Earth and the hate for the future generations for each other, right.
AMY GOODMAN: And your name?
GURPREET SINGH: My name is Gurpreet Singh. I’m from Toronto, Canada. And I represent EcoSikh Canada, as well, Greenpeace and 350. I’m a bit of an environmentalist chameleon. But that’s just to, you know, remove labels. And I’d like to say, you know, I’m from Turtle Island, in the sense that we put too many boundaries and borders in places that, you know, shouldn’t exist, and that we’re united in this march for environmental cause.
AMY GOODMAN: Will you all be tomorrow at Flood Wall Street?
BANDANA KAUR: Yes. Yes, we will be there, for sure.
AMY GOODMAN: If you could talk, Barnali, about what the U.N. is doing or not doing, what the United States is doing or not doing?
BARNALI GHOSH: So, definitely there’s no leadership on climate that we’re seeing. We’re following—we’re going to follow the U.N. talks. But we’re also here to be with our people, who are working on solutions. We’re not just looking to the U.N. for solutions, but we’re hoping that the climate leaders, the U.N. leaders coming, the world leaders coming together, they will talk about what they’re doing within the country, but also demand of countries like the U.S. and the U.K., the historic contributors, that they should fund adaptation in our countries. But also we’re demanding that—we don’t want tar sands XL. We don’t want the pipeline. We don’t want fracking in California in our communities. And we want to be taking—and our communities here are affected, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: And the fact that the president talks about fracking in terms of energy self-sufficiency in the United States?
BARNALI GHOSH: Right. We do not support that, because we really feel like there are better solutions. There’s solar, wind.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s wrong with fracking?
BARNALI GHOSH: What’s wrong with fracking? Come to California. We’ll tell you what’s wrong with fracking. The farmers in California are being affected by drought right now, and Governor Jerry Brown is still talking about allowing fracking in California, which uses a lot of water. So even fracking affects our communities. Yes, we care about energy, but we don’t care about energy so much that we don’t care about the farmers who produce our food.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel that you could get the energy you need from solar and wind? And are there enough subsidies for them?
BARNALI GHOSH: We think we should try, because what’s the point of energy if—you know, for us, for a lot of folks who come from our countries, this is a question of survival. This is not a question of just finding alternatives to energy. We’re really talking about different models of working with each other. I can say for myself it’s not about a capitalistic model. It is a more community-based model. In California, in Berkeley, where I come from, there are lots of folks who are working on a more socially just approach, whether it’s community gardens, whether it’s CCAs, whether it’s community-based solar, so smaller-scale solar, not just individual roofs. So we know we have solutions here, and we know we have solutions that India and Bangladesh are working on. So, we just want to work together, because—and provide our support to what others might term American movements, but they’re really our movements, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Barnali Ghosh and friends, South Asians for Climate Justice, thanks so much for joining us here on Democracy Now! And tell all your friends about Democracy Now!, and tweet it out and put it on Facebook.
BARNALI GHOSH: Oh, somebody just texted me: “I see you on Democracy Now!” So, our friends are watching.
AMY GOODMAN: So we’re broadcasting live right now from the climate summit. It’s the only global TV/radio/Internet broadcast that’s taking place for three hours of this march, democracynow.org, also on television and radio stations. We’re going to turn right now to Zenaida Mendez of National Organization for Women.
BARNALI GHOSH: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much. And I think—
GURPREET SINGH: We’re happy to be here because it’s shameful that India’s prime minister and Canada’s prime minister are not coming.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait, can you repeat what you just said?
GURPREET SINGH: I just said we’re happy to be here because it’s shameful and disappointing that India’s prime minister and Canada’s prime minister are not coming to these talks at the U.N.
AMY GOODMAN: Ah, are not at these talks. So, people are marching by. I now see the ACT UP and Occupy contingent. ”ACT UP and Occupy, Tax Wall Street, End AIDS.” That’s the sign of some of the people right now. Ah, well, look who’s here. Zenaida, Zenaida Mendez, National Organization for Women. Talk about—why NOW?
ZENAIDA MENDEZ: Why not? We have to be here. I mean, this is gender justice and also climate justice. We have to make sure that women are heard. We’re talking about two females: Mother Earth and us.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk more about—now, you’re originally from Panama?
ZENAIDA MENDEZ: Dominican Republic.
AMY GOODMAN: Dominican Republic.
ZENAIDA MENDEZ: Where right now we have a big battle about Loma Miranda, which is one of the last natural resources in the Dominican Republic. And the people in La Vega, Dominican Republic, are fighting, because that provides all the water in that region, and the government wants to give it away to Falconbridge.
AMY GOODMAN: We were just speaking on Democracy Now! on Friday with Estela Vázquez, who is with 1199 SEIU, and it just reminds me that right behind us, a couple blocks down, labor unions held a mass rally, are doing that now, and are joining this protest, which is so interesting. Often it’s seen as, you know, environmentalists versus labor unions, environmentalists taking away jobs, but I think that’s all breaking down here today.
ZENAIDA MENDEZ: Definitely, it is. It is fundamental that we all come together, because the planet has to be saved. And we all have a responsibility. All us workers, female, male, children, we have to make sure that the future is livable.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Zenaida Mendez, thanks so much for joining us—
ZENAIDA MENDEZ: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: —from NOW, and the women of NOW behind you. I see a woman who has made history right behind us. Her name is Kshama Sawant, and she is the first Socialist city councilmember in Seattle, of the Seattle City Council. Did I get that right?
KSHAMA SAWANT: Yes, yes, the first Socialist in about a hundred years.
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, in a hundred years. There was one before, more than a century ago. So I saw you last night, Kshama, speaking at All Souls Church. You certainly revved up the crowd. Your T-shirt says, “Planet over Profit.” Talk about why you’ve come from Seattle.
KSHAMA SAWANT: Well, we’re here mainly because this is an absolutely historic weekend for the budding movement against climate change. And the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are here marching together in solidarity shows that they are more than ready for collective action. And what we were talking about last night was that this collective action needs to be channeled into a really radical, militant, nonviolent mass movement that will raise concrete political demands.
What do we need to end, to really fight climate change? We need an end to fossil fuel use. We need a rapid transformation of the global economy into renewable energy. We need a massive expansion of mass transit, which will generate millions of unionized, living-wage jobs. And also, we don’t buy into the false dichotomy between jobs and the environment.
But to make all this happen, we need huge movement to put intense pressure on the establishment and not expect that they will do it—you know, we know that they haven’t been doing it—but also to explain why that is so. Why haven’t climate summit after climate summit solved the problem? It’s because the billionaires who own the oil corporations have no incentive to acknowledge climate change, because if they did, that would mean giving up their ideology, giving up the capitalist system that benefits them.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I mean, what’s remarkable about what you’re saying is you actually did accomplish a huge victory in Seattle. When were you elected?
KSHAMA SAWANT: I was elected last year, in November of 2013.
AMY GOODMAN: So, November 2013, you were elected. You got a $15-an-hour minimum wage passed by the Seattle City Council. When was that?
KSHAMA SAWANT: That was in—just two months ago, you know, in Seattle. So, just in a matter of months, we were able to galvanize a powerful-enough social movement in Seattle that demanded $15 an hour from the establishment. And that didn’t happen magically. It happened because Socialist Alternative, my organization, we ran a really challenging campaign where we raised the demand $15 an hour last year, taxing millionaires, and rent control. And that really electrified the consciousness of Seattle, and that helped to create a movement which community organizations, the labor movement, low-wage workers all came together demanding 15. And it showed you the bankruptcy of the Democratic Party establishment. There aren’t any Republicans to speak of in Seattle, but the Democratic politicians pushed for corporate loopholes. And it shows you, one, that mass movements can achieve success, and second, if you want to win gains away from the corporate masters, then you have to build powerful movements.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the alliances you have in connecting this issue of the $15-an-hour minimum wage with climate change.
KSHAMA SAWANT: I think that what we’re seeing is more and more of an understanding in the environmental community that, you know, when—they’re noticing that the Democrats have failed them completely. Obama has completely betrayed them. Fossil fuel emissions have gone—greenhouse gas emissions have gone up in the last 20 years, instead of going in the other direction. And they’re seeing that the oil corporations have no incentive to act on this. So, in one way or another, people are starting to articulate to themselves the reality that climate change is very much connected to capitalism. Now, that is very important, because there’s also this other side of society which is starting to understand that the social problems we face, the racism, you know, which Ferguson, the movements are showing that there’s anger against the systematic and entrenched racism, and the anger against the income inequality, the anger that corporations were bailed out while the rest of us were sold out in the recession. All of that is also starting to be connected with a systemic failure. And we can that the best way to fight against climate change is to bring all of these movements together and fight against the main ill, which is capitalism, but also understand that while we are doing that, the movement has to understand that in order to really fight climate change, we will need to raise the question of public ownership, democratic public ownership, of these oil corporations.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Kshama Sawant, you go back; when do you face a new re-election?
KSHAMA SAWANT: Next year, actually. Last year, just as we were elected, a district initiative was passed, and so all councilmembers are up for re-election next year.
AMY GOODMAN: So my question is—perhaps you got in under the radar, in a sense, or maybe people didn’t expect that you would win, particularly corporations. Are you concerned about your next election, with the kind of victory that you’ve achieved with the $15-an-hour minimum wage?
KSHAMA SAWANT: I think you’re absolutely right, Amy, that the ruling establishment, both the big businesses and the Democratic Party politicians that represent them in Seattle, they were caught asleep at the wheel. And so, for them, it’s going to be extremely important that they control the narrative, you know? So they are going to go to a systematic effort to make sure that a Socialist is not re-elected. But, to me, that translates as a really powerful message to the working people in Seattle. Look, we have made a historic change happen. We saw, through our own experience, that the big businesses and the politicians that fight for them do not fight for us. So if we want to keep moving forward, then it is absolutely critical that we make sure that the re-election happens, which means that the grassroots needs to be mobilized. So my appeal is to everybody, not just in Seattle, but everybody in the country: You have to be conscious that these victories don’t come for free; we have to fight for them. So go to SocialistAlternative.org and see how you can help us.
AMY GOODMAN: Kshama Sawant, thank you so much for being with us. Kshama Sawant is the Socialist city councilmember in Seattle. When she was elected last year, she’s the first Socialist to be elected to the City Council in more than 100 years. This is Democracy Now! In just two minutes, there’s going to be a moment of silence, and then one of the loudest sounds New York has ever heard. But I do see right here Dr. Steffie Woolhandler and Dr. Peter Wilk, both with Physicians for a National Health Program. In these few minutes before the moment of silence, Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, what’s a doctor like you doing in the streets of New York?
DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER: Well, there’s several hundred doctors in the physicians’ contingent, medical students, as well. And we’re here because this is a—global warming is a health crisis. We’re seeing—we saw tens of thousands of deaths from cholera related to algae blooms. We’ve seen the mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever moving north and moving to higher elevations. We saw a thousand people die in New Orleans because of a hurricane. There’s no way the healthcare system can deal with this problem alone. We need to be working to stop global warming now.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we continue this conversation, the moment of silence has begun. I’m going to whisper here, as the whole street goes silent, people still holding up their signs. “You can’t frack this,” “Hey, Obama, we don’t need no climate drama.” And now the noise! So, some have called this a burglar alarm, that this is a burglar alarm going out for those who have stolen the planet. Others say it is a wake-up call. It’s called “sounding the alarm.” And I still see all of these signs: “Keep the oil in the soil,” where—it says, “Canada is angry. Where is Harper?” Many different signs of many different groups. But we are right now still with Dr. Steffie Woolhandler and Dr. Peter Wilk, both with—well, Steffie is with Physicians for a National Health Program, and Dr. Peter Wilk is with Physicians for Social Responsibility, that used to have the motto, around nuclear weapons, “Your doctor is worried.” Folks are still chanting the sound. It’s a wave now, coming on back down. The alarm is sounding. I see a sign here that says, “Turn towards Utopia.” So talk more, Dr. Woolhandler.
DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER: Well, I think a lot of doctors are feeling that we do have to deal with this global warming issue. Many of us are focused on reform of the healthcare system. We need that, too. But no healthcare system can deal with a climate crisis, and that’s clearly where we’re headed. We’re already seeing people dying from heat-related illness, and it’s only going to get worse, unless we can control the behavior of the fossil fuel industry. Peter, what do you have to say?
AMY GOODMAN: Doctors, do either of you have a cough drop? Only kidding, not really. But, Dr. Peter Wilk?
DR. PETER WILK: Sunscreen.
AMY GOODMAN: I don’t know if that’ll do it for my throat.
DR. PETER WILK: So, let me add one more thing. You mentioned Physicians for Social Responsibility’s early days working to prevent the grave threat of nuclear war. And the motto at the time, which we still use, is “Prevent what you cannot cure.” So, just as we could not cure a nuclear war if it happened, we really cannot cure global warming if it continues the way it is. We need to prevent it. A healthy climate is essential for healthy people.
AMY GOODMAN: Is this really a discussion that doctors are having right now?
DR. PETER WILK: Absolutely. The American Medical Association has endorsed resolutions calling for action on climate change. The American Academy of Pediatrics has. The American Public Health Association has. It’s a serious matter of health impact, as Steffie was already describing, in terms of the rise of certain illnesses related to global climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: And where do you both work? Dr. Wilk, where do you work?
DR. PETER WILK: I’m a psychiatrist, actually, in Portland, Maine.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think this country is suffering from denial?
DR. PETER WILK: I think, to a degree, it’s easy to imagine that this is going to happen somewhere else to other people, but it’s actually happening—sorry, it’s happening here. It’s happening now. The asthma rates in Maine are going up. And as we work with physicians in Maine to think about this and talk to their patients about it, families are concerned. They don’t want their kids all to be using inhalers in order to be able to play sports at school.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Dr. Woolhandler, where do you work now?
DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER: Well, I work at City University of New York School of Public Health, and I see patients in the South Bronx. And the South Bronx is really very hard hit by climate change. The air quality is quite poor because of all the trucks and buses going through the South Bronx, the way the community has been split up by the highways going through. So we have some of the worst air quality in New York City and some of the highest rates of respiratory disease. But we’re just the canary in the coal mine. If we don’t stop the fossil fuel industry, this is going to be everywhere. And it’s—you know, we in medicine, we try to deal with it. We try to treat asthma. We teach our students about heat-related illness. But we need to be preventing this. It’s not just a question of treating it once it happens.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, your organization, Physicians for a National Health Program, is well known for being for single-payer healthcare, for Medicare for all. How do you relate Medicare for all to climate change?
DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER: Well, I’m actually here with the organization. I’m not sure the organization has a position on climate change. I do think we’re mostly practicing physicians, and we’re all experiencing the bad effects of climate change on our patients. But we don’t have a formal position on it. We just—a lot of us showed up with a big contingent of other physicians to protest.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you relate to the scientists that were up at Museum of Natural History, the scientists who were saying the evidence is in?
DR. STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER: They evidence is clearly in. Our late friend Paul Epstein was a physician, one of the leaders in making the case that global climate change is already affecting health. It’s not something in the future. It’s not tomorrow. It’s not 10 years from now. We’re already seeing very serious health problems. So I think the scientific data is pretty conclusive.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us, Dr. Steffie Woolhandler of Physicians for a National Health Program and Dr. Peter Wilk of Physicians for Social Responsibility, just two of the more than 100,000 people who are here in this march, some loosely organized, some in major groups that have come in across the country. People have walked across the country. People have taken the Climate Train across the country. Of course, people in the larger New York area are here, taking subways, taking trains. Others have flown in from around the world, like Patrick Bond, our next guest, flown in from South Africa. Patrick, it’s great to see you here.
PATRICK BOND: Great to be back with you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: We last saw you at the U.N. climate summit in Durban, South Africa. Talk about what you do in South Africa and why you’re here today.
PATRICK BOND: Well, it’s amazing, first, that you were there with your team, and a march of about 10,000 to 15,000, a very strong march for our purposes, but not one like this that connects the dots. And this is really why I’ve come. I came to another South Africa conference here at the City University of New York. I was so lucky to time it with a march that raises every issue under the sun. I think Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, has helped people. You just had Steffie doing health, but right behind us were the AIDS—the ACT UP, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. So, Durban, where I live, is the city with the highest number of HIV-positive people. And as opportunistic infections rise, we’re going to see another surge of AIDS-related deaths, unless we can really put a grip on the emissions.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, looking at this group, you’re also a student of, a professor of movements. Do you see something coalescing that we have not seen before? I mean, we’ve gone to these global summits for years. It seemed that people were much more coordinated and networked in other parts of the world than the United States, that on the issue of climate change, the United States was behind. But this seems to be turning the tide. I mean, look, we are standing here at the top of Columbus Circle along Central Park, so there’s trees on one side, there are buildings on the other.
PATRICK BOND: Buildings full of rich people, exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: But most importantly—and most importantly, tens of thousands of people as far as the eye can see. And I have been saying that for the last hour and a half, as far as the eye can see. It doesn’t seem that we can see the end of the march.
PATRICK BOND: Oh, it must be over that 100,000 target. Oh, for sure.
AMY GOODMAN: It may be 200,000.
PATRICK BOND: Yeah, and, look, I would say numbers are great, and it does show the interest level. There is a critique of this march insofar it didn’t take all these people against power directly, up against the U.N.; it walks the other way. That might be a signal the U.N.'s not that relevant, because they haven't yet figured out a system.
AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, apparently, Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, is, as he said, joining arms with the protesters, and he’s out marching today.
PATRICK BOND: Well, and there are corporate sponsors. I saw Avaaz’s ads in the subway, which are hipsters and bankers are in the same boat. Well, that might be too big a tent, Amy. I mean, it may be, in that sense, time to ask for tougher analysis of what will solve the problem. Have bankers solved the problem? They have carbon trading, and they’ve got financial markets to handle offsets. But these have all failed. And I’m worried that on Tuesday that’s going to be part of the repertoire of the big elites, that they’re going to say, “We’re going to put a price on carbon, but it’s going to be through bankers and carbon trading,” as California started, China is getting going, but, you know, it failed miserably in Europe. So I think those are messenging questions that the organizers of this march, huge success that it is, will be criticized for—no central demands, a wishy-washiness.
And yet, you know, Amy, when I see these incredible issue connectivities, the ability to get out of silos, every single interest group I’ve ever run into in the U.S. is here. And that’s what I think you’re saying: A tide has turned. People know climate is their issue. You remember the 1999 World Trade Organization in Seattle? Everybody was there, because trade affected everything—Teamsters and turtle lovers, as they said.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re seeing signs, “Abbott, stop ignoring the signs. Australia against climate change,” “Reject Keystone XL, no tar sands, Sierra Club,” “Good planets are hard to find. Let’s save this one.” “Good planets are hard to find. Let’s save this one.” Maybe we can get the person who’s holding that sign to come over. “Good planets are hard to find.” But how does climate change affect South Africa?
PATRICK BOND: Well, actually, South Africa is a victim and a villain. If the four-degree level is hit, as now we’re on a trajectory, it does mean for most of the inland parts of Africa, seven, eight, nine degrees centigrade. OK, centigrade, that’s a lot more than Fahrenheit. So it’s really important that South Africa also address its huge contributions through brand new coal-fired power plants, two big ones, the two biggest in the world under construction. One got the World Bank’s biggest loan. So when we’re thinking divestment, the activists in South Africa—one of them was at the lead of the march, Desmond D’Sa from South Durban. He just won the Goldman Prize this year. And he’s saying that we’ve got to divest from some of the big companies that are South African. It reminds us of South Africa against apartheid, using the solidarity of ordinary people, but targeting the Wall Street bankers and corporates. And I think that’s a good—Archbishop Tutu said it’s a very, very good metaphor. Bring down apartheid by attacking the profiteers, we’ve got to do the same with a stronger divestment, moving actually beyond fossil fuel into the financing and the facilitators, like the transporters, like the Keystone—you know, that’s a pipeline—or trains and trucking are under contestation. And now we’ve got to find labor, progressive labor, saying, “Let’s have that just transition away from those [inaudible].” So, in South Africa, we’re pretty much cutting edge on these questions of victim and villainhood, but, as you remember from 2011, we didn’t do as good a job at filling the streets. And the big divisions in our movements—climate action, on the one side, just do anything; climate justice saying, “Well, be conscious of North-South, Global North-Global South, race, gender, all the other injustices.” That’s still a division, you know, that you see it sort of undercover in this march, but I think it’s time we put it out. And, by the way, Naomi Klein’s book, as you’ve shown in that great long interview last week, absolutely brilliant at raising these questions.
AMY GOODMAN: Right, you’re referring to Naomi Klein’s new book, just out this week. I think she’s at the Brooklyn Book Festival today, as well as here, and will be speaking tomorrow at Flood Wall Street. Her book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
PATRICK BOND: Can I say, I’ll be there—I’ll be there at Flood Wall Street. Isn’t that fantastic, the Occupiers have been thinking through how do they help? And I was sitting around at some of the planning strategy meetings, the trainings for CD. They think they’re going to have in the high hundreds, maybe more, of people willing to get arrested at Wall Street. Now, if a small fraction of all of the happy family day marchers will also go down, this will really impress people. This will change a lot of the way the next series of COPs, the U.N. climate summits, unfold.
AMY GOODMAN: Patrick Bond of South Africa, thank you so much for joining us. I now see Lex Barlowe. Thanks, Patrick. Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network. You know, we are ending this broadcast in about 20 minutes, but this movement does not end. Tomorrow on Democracy Now!, we’ll be bringing you the voices of the protest as the people just keep on coming. Lex Barlowe, welcome to Democracy Now!
LEX BARLOWE: Hi. Thank you. Welcome.
AMY GOODMAN: So tell me, what is the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network?
LEX BARLOWE: The Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network is an organization that’s been in the works for a couple of years, since the beginning—since the first, very first, convergence at Swarthmore in 2011. So, yeah, so the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network is trying to coordinate all the over 400 divestment campaigns that we have against fossil fuels on our campuses across the country. We’re really excited to be here at the march today. Fossil fuel divestment has created a huge movement. It’s gone in three years from like 10 schools to over 400. And we’re really working on getting our students in line with this climate justice messaging. We really believe that students have created a movement out of finding this way to leverage their power as students and how they can specifically be in solidarity with front-line communities at their universities, instead of just always going to these communities and going to see what they can do, how can they take action right now on their campuses.
AMY GOODMAN: So, now, you go to Yale.
LEX BARLOWE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: But Yale has not divested.
LEX BARLOWE: Yale actually publicly, a couple of weeks ago—sorry, Yale actually publicly a couple of weeks ago came out and said that they would absolutely not divest, and they rejected our divestment proposal. But they did it at the same time as they came out with a bunch of other sustainability initiatives, so they kind of covered that up really quickly.
AMY GOODMAN: How does Yale compare to Stanford in what it did?
LEX BARLOWE: Yeah, so, Yale’s messaging right now is about how they want to take climate change really seriously. And they’ve recently said that they don’t believe that divestment actually does anything. And so, they think that what Stanford did is fine, but they don’t want to do that, because they think that it won’t actually do anything. Of course, we believe that that’s not why—really why they don’t want to do anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t they want to do anything?
LEX BARLOWE: You know, they have corporate interests on their board. They have a huge—you know, one of the people who was actually on the committee that decided—the committee that decided about divestment was on the board of TransCanada, which we know is this company that’s trying to build the Keystone XL pipeline. So there’s huge conflicts of interest. Yale is a place that’s really tied to Wall Street and really tied to corporate America. And divesting from fossil fuels inherently challenges that and says that not only is this money in the wrong place, but we believe that this industry having this much power is wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, this divestment movement on student campuses—it’s also in foundations and in other organizations—has caught fire faster than almost any other.
LEX BARLOWE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: So explain how it happened and how you’ve been organizing and exactly what divestment means.
LEX BARLOWE: Right. So, the way—so, the very first fossil fuel divestment campaign was at Swarthmore College. And they started their campaign as an explicitly intentional solidarity tactic with people who are experiencing mountaintop removal and living in these coal communities in Appalachia. And the movement really took off after that. There were huge numbers of students coming out after Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour. But what we’ve really been trying to do as the Divestment Student Network is, when the movement really grew, it came into a place where they were talking a lot about carbon and carbon in the atmosphere and how we need to keep fossil fuels underground in order to stop our carbon content in the atmosphere from rising. And that’s really hugely important. But the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network has realized that along the way we lost the solidarity messaging and we lost the solidarity tactic that divestment could have been. So we’re trying to bring it all back to that. We’re trying to bring it back to—this is a really great way for students to address global climate change, but it’s also a way for students to hold their universities accountable for the damages that they’re causing to these communities right in their backyards. And, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: So, where do you go from here?
LEX BARLOWE: Yeah, so, divestment—yeah, so, I think divestment is really meaningful in the sense that it allows students to be—to really be in solidarity and allows students to sort of take ownership over what’s going to happen. But where we’re going from here is trying to harness the energy from the march. There’s huge numbers of students here. And not all of them are involved in divestment. Some of them are excited about divestment. Some of them don’t really know yet. And so, we’re trying to figure out—we had a youth convergence yesterday where we were. We’re trying to figure out how we can get all of these students to really start being a part of the movement and start thinking about divestment as one of the best ways that they can plug into this movement in a real way after the march.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much—
LEX BARLOWE: Yeah, thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: —Lex Barlow, for being with us, of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network.
LEX BARLOWE: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: She is a student at Yale, marching in the largest People’s Climate Summit in history. That’s right, history is being made today, whether it’s 100,000 or 200,000 people. People have come from across the globe, every which way, to make their voices heard. Today, they’re calling it family day, a march along Central Park that ends up at the Javits Center. There are no major speeches. Then tomorrow, on Wall Street, it’s called “Flood Wall Street.” There will be direct action and arrests. People will be wearing blue. Among those who will speak are Rebecca Solnit, the author and the activist, and Naomi Klein, who just came out with a new book, This Changes Everything. I think Maura Cowley has just walked up. Maura Cowley is executive director of Energy Action Coalition.
MAURA COWLEY: Hi.
AMY GOODMAN: Hi, Maura. Tell us where you came from.
MAURA COWLEY: I came from Washington, D.C., up to New York today.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
MAURA COWLEY: I’m here to demand that our elected leaders take action on climate. I’m part of the youth contingent, and we’re out here to make sure that folks know that young people want action on climate.
AMY GOODMAN: And what specifically are you doing around energy?
MAURA COWLEY: Well, we run a ton of different campaigns. Our biggest campaign is we mobilize young people to turn out to vote and then pressure our elected officials to take action, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And what victories have you had?
MAURA COWLEY: We’ve had a ton of victories. I think that we’ve been able to meet with President Obama over the years, which was really, really exciting. We’ve had a lot of influence pushing Keystone XL. Young people have been critical to stopping that pipeline to date, and we’re going to keep pushing on that. And, yeah, so those are two big victories.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Maura, I want to thank you for being with us. And I see my erstwhile colleague right now, Juan González. Juan, so let’s see—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Hey, Amy. How are you?
AMY GOODMAN: You’re wearing a Cozumel baseball cap.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah. How are you? It’s a fantastic day, isn’t it? Incredible, incredible.
AMY GOODMAN: So where did you walk from?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I walked from 72nd with my daughter and her—with my daughter and her class from the Columbia Secondary School, about 10 students, in their own little delegation, in front of a very loud Penn State delegation. And it was incredibly loud, but it’s an amazing march. We’ve only managed to walk, in about an hour and a half now, four blocks. So there’s still a huge amount of people still out there waiting to get at least to this turn, so they can continue on to the main part of the march.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it is astounding. We still see dozens of blocks down. There is no end in sight. Let’s see, in front of us now, “Climate change is a social issue,” “Youth choose climate justice,” “100 percent renewable energy,” “A good planet is hard to find, so let’s save this one.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: No, the signs are unbelievable. And there was a group in front of us from a high school in North Carolina. It was only four or five of them, but they had a sign of over 50 of the students who had signed, because they couldn’t be here, to let the marchers know, to please participate and to recognize their participation.
AMY GOODMAN: What grade is Gabriela in, your daughter?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Gabriela is a sophomore now in high school, in the public high school.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I wish she was organizing—I mean, I wish she was right here. But how did she organize?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, they got together in their global history class, and the teacher also gave them extra credit for participating in the march, only if they brought evidence, photographic evidence, that they had been in the march. So—
AMY GOODMAN: So she’s taking a lot of selfies?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, so they’re taking a lot of selfies, yes. But it’s great to see the enormous number of young people that are out, that are deciding that this is the time for them to get involved and make a statement and make it clear to the leaders of the world that it’s the people that are going to force the policies that are needed for climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Juan, you covered and were a part of many movements. Have you seen one like this?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, there have been a few marches that have been maybe bigger than this during the Vietnam War era, obviously, and during the 2006 immigration protests that were really in the millions. But this is certainly an incredible outpouring for the issue of climate change. It’s historic. I don’t think that anywhere in the world has this many people come together on this issue. So I think, for the young people, it will be a seminal moment for them, in terms of the work that they do afterwards.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, maybe we can wade into the crowd just a little bit. Let’s see if the camera folks will go with us, Juan, and let’s just ask people right here what they’re doing here. Police tell us we have to go on the other side of the barrier. I was just kind of hoping. But OK, let’s see. “One Less Car” is standing right in front of us. One Less Car, tell us about your T-shirt.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 1: Hi, Amy. We’re big fans of you, Amy.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 2: Hi, Amy. Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Where did you come in from?
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 2: From Bayonne.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 1: Yeah, yeah.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 2: We’re from Brooklyn, but we’re from Bayonne.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 1: Yeah, we’re from Brooklyn.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Juan González.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 2: Hey, Juan, nice to meet you. Very nice to meet you.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 1: Oh, Juan, how are you? Nice to meet you. We are such fans.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 2: I’m a fan of yours since you were on the Morning Show with Bernard.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 1: Yes.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Years ago.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 2: That’s how long.
AMY GOODMAN: What brought you here today? You’ve got a bicycle on your T-shirt.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 2: Our bicycles brought us here.
BAYONNE-BROOKLYN RESIDENT 1: Yes, our bicycles brought us here. We all need to be riding bicycles, and stop the cars and stop the fuel and save this wonderful Earth that we’re on.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask the young woman behind you—tell us what your sign says.
ANITA SIMHA: It says, “Tar Heels Against Tar Sands.” Me and Jack are from North Carolina, the Tar Heel State.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s your name?
ANITA SIMHA: I’m Anita Simha. I go to UNC-Chapel Hill, as does Jack.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Did you come in a large group or just yourselves?
ANITA SIMHA: Yeah, we rode with the Greenpeace bus, yeah. So we’re very excited to be here representing the South.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, there’s lots of—I’ve seen people from Huntsville, Alabama, from North Carolina. There’s quite a group here that’s been out.
ANITA SIMHA: Yeah.
NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: New Orleans.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: New Orleans?
NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: OK, now I see another group. Can you guys come over? It says ”SUNY Geneseo for Global Action.” Come over. Come here. Come join us. Come over. Can you tell us your names? What’s your name?
JASON: I’m Jason, from SUNY Geneseo.
AMY GOODMAN: And what are you doing here?
JASON: Marching for climate change action.
SUNY GENESEO STUDENT 1: We’re marching for climate justice.
SUNY GENESEO STUDENT 2: Fighting for global action.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you meet a lot of college students here?
SUNY GENESEO STUDENT 1: Yeah, we’ve met people from a lot of—like, we’ve met people from South Carolina, Minnesota, New York, so we’ve met people from all over.
AMY GOODMAN: Hey, “There is no Earth upgrade,” can you come over? Can you come over here? Can you come over? Come on over. No, OK. People are too busy marching to come over right now. But so, here you have this massive march. Oh, there’s an interesting one, and maybe we can get it. There’s a person, Juan, holding an ice cream cone, but the ice cream part looks like the globe, and it says, “I scream, I scream.” And then it says, “The seas are rising, but so are the people.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Let’s talk to this guy right here.
AMY GOODMAN: And then we’ve got some folks who are saying, “Give bees a chance,” “Invest in our future, not in our demise.” Can you tell us why you’re here?
PROTESTERS: Shut it down!
PROTESTER: What do we want?
PROTESTERS: Clean air!
PROTESTER: When do we want it?
PROTESTER: What do we want?
PROTESTERS: Clean air!
PROTESTER: When do we want it?
PROTESTER: If we don’t get it?
PROTESTERS: Shut it down!
PROTESTER: If we don’t get it?
PROTESTERS: Shut it down!
AMY GOODMAN: Who are you guys?
TERRY KING: ACTION United.
AMY GOODMAN: Who are you with?
TERRY KING: We’re with ACTION United.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is ACTION United?
TERRY KING: ACTION United is a community group back in Philadelphia. We organize for situations like this, fair funding for schools. Whatever the need, we come. We are the proud members of ACTION United.
AMY GOODMAN: And your name?
TERRY KING: Terry King.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much. And your sign says? Your sign says, “We are done waiting. Now is the time to demand climate justice.” What’s your name?
AMY GOODMAN: And where are you from, Anna?
ANNA: I represent BMCC.
AMY GOODMAN: Borough of Manhattan Community College is a local college here in New York.
RAINFOREST RELIEF ACTIVIST: With Rainforest Relief, we need to address deforestation, as well. Thirty percent of climate change gas is coming from deforestation. New York City is the single-largest consumer of tropical hardwoods in North America.
AMY GOODMAN: Hello. Where are you from?
NORRISTOWN RESIDENT: We are from Norristown, Pennsylvania.
AMY GOODMAN: From Pennsylvania. And why did you come here today?
NORRISTOWN RESIDENT: We came here to—we came here to help the nature.
AMY GOODMAN: To help nature. Well, thank you so much. Yes, what is your name? Why don’t you come over here?
JONATHAN GRANOFF: Jonathan Granoff. I’m the president of the Global Security Institute. Without—today is U.N. International Day of Peace. Without peace with nature, we won’t have peace amongst the nations. The second thing I was thinking is, when somebody burns the Qur’an or the Bible, everyone’s so upset. But when we destroy species, it’s as if we’re ripping a page out of a holy scripture that we can’t rewrite. So some of us are saying, “Stop burning our Bible, the direct, sacred fabric of life itself.” We have so much more to learn. That is a sacred scripture. This is a sacred endeavor. And God bless you, Amy Goodman, for all that you do.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve also worked on nuclear weapons, haven’t you?
JONATHAN GRANOFF: Yes, I see nuclear weapons are the apartheid wall of modernity. To have nine countries say, “We can put all creation at risk in our security interest,” and then expect the countries of the world to all cooperate in protecting our global commons—the climate, the oceans, the rainforest—is preposterous. Our interests in security are common. The human family is now clearly one family. The fabric of life on the planet is interwoven. And the sacred climate reminds us that we are one family. And nuclear weapons have no place in a secure future.
AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Granoff, thanks so much for being with us. “Sea-level rise is a serious issue. I ain’t kitten you,” says the sign with a picture of a kitten. “The end is nearer. Get the frack out.” These are just some of the signs. So, Juan, as you stand with me at the end here, your observations? We have two minutes to go—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: OK, two minutes to go? All right.
AMY GOODMAN: —to the end of this. This is interesting. There’s one sign here that says, “This country has a Koch problem.” Koch is spelled K-O-C-H. And another sign says, “How come we like being outdoors but don’t caring about it?”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Of course, my favorite, which we can say on the radio, is “Go frack yourself.”
AMY GOODMAN: He said “frack,” by the way, folks. Signs that say, “One love, protect our waters,” “Cook organic, not the planet,” “Cook organic, not the planet.” Lots of “Youth choose climate justice” signs. We have a lot of people to thank, and we’re going to go out with a song that we played earlier today, Neil Young’s song, as the people are marching down the streets of New York, 100,000, perhaps hundreds of thousands—we’ll find out later today. Neil Young wrote a song dedicated to the climate and about doing something about it. His song is called “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?” And I want to thank my nephew, Jasper Goodman, and I want to thank Nermeen Shaikh.