This is what democracy looks like

Written by Frank Lowenstein on . Posted in Act

At least 35,000 Americans marched around the White House in biting winds and cold sunlight on Sunday in the largest demonstration for climate action in history.

From Minnesota, Missouri, Vermont, Texas, New York, Washington, and likely every other state, they came. Collge students arrived from University of Vermont,  University of Massachusetts, University of Maryland, Wellesley Collge, Washington University, Middlebury College and dozens of other schools.

There were older Americans, some marching with canes or walkers or even wheelchairs. There were veterans in dress uniforms. There were parents and children, some children marching themselves, others on shoulders or in strollers. There were brass bands and percussion groups and a six-foot-wide drum on wheels. There were hand-made signs and printed signs. There were banners in English and others in Spanish. It was an outpouring of Americans at a rally and march organized by the Sierra Club, 350.org and Climate Reality Project, among other participant groups.

And it was a crowd of geeks. When they raised their fists and chanted before the march at the request of organizers, the crowd seemed perhaps a bit uncomfortable. But during the march in overheard conversations you could hear the passion and the knowledge of climate issues. One fellow chatted about the improving economics of home solar installations with his companion. A moving discussion group about the right timing for climate legislation marched down Constitution Avenue.

One sign read: “Make the price of oil reflect its negative externalities.” Another featured maps of the 2- degree Celsius and 4-degree Celsius worlds and asked observers which they would rather live in. Still another proclaimed that its bearer was there to represent Aldo Leopold – and that the founder of modern land conservation was “pissed.” The crowd was well-informed.

It was a crowd that reflected America at its best – diverse, well-educated, civic-minded and passionate. And in the chants and the signs you could feel the desire for engagement, and the passion, and the hope.

One chant was heard up and down the march again and again, and this the marchers shouted with passion in a call and response rhythm.

“Tell me what democracy looks like… This is what democracy looks like!”

Frank Lowenstein is Climate Adaptation Strategy Leader for The Nature Conservancy, though he participated in the climate march as a citizen.

Photos © Frank Lowenstein (Thousands marched for climate change action in Washington, D.C. Sunday, including the author and some of his colleagues).

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Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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