Nearly half a million people filled New York City’s streets yesterday as part of the People’s Climate March, an event some are calling America’s largest political protest in at least a decade. Orion contributing editor Terry Tempest Williams, who was in attendance along with climate activist Tim DeChristopher and fellow Orion contributor Rick Bass (pictured above), sent us this letter from the middle of it all.
They just kept coming in waves, in torrents, a river of people convening on the streets of New York City in the march for climate justice. They just kept coming, hundreds of thousands of individuals, indigenous, black, white, brown, yellow, and red, a rainbow of colors winding through the canyons of Manhattan.
This movement of climate justice is no longer segregated, is no longer privileged, is no longer young or old, or the radical fringe moving toward the center. Instead, this movement resides in the core of a collective concern: Earth has a fever. There is no Planet B. What we witnessed on Sunday, September 21, was 400,000 individuals standing in the center of this crisis with love.
At one o’clock, the River of the People’s March became quiet, silent in a haunting moment of stillness. And then, a rolling cry of care rose from the street with undulating momentum like an animated heat wave blown by the wind that electrified the crowd like thunder and lightening followed by a rain of voices.
The written language of hand painted signs created its own poetry:
Save the Earth, Heal the Spirit
I can’t swim —
Let our voices rise, not the sea
I can’t swim —
Divest from fossil fuels
If the Rockefellers can do it, so we can we –
I am building a community that runs without fossil fuels
No more oil, no more coal –
Keep our future in our soil
It is raining, it is pouring
We are all Noah now —
Wall Street Corporations are junkies
Renewables bring peace —
People and the Planet, over profit —
Love your Mother –
We have to make peace with Nature —
Care now, you might be coming back
Quilters for the Planet –
Chefs for Climate Change –
Howling for the future –
Abbey was right –
Hey, Obama, Don’t need no fracking drama!
Protect me –
I can’t swim —
Hi, I’m a friendly, sociable scientist –
Come talk to me –
Clean water is a right
Not just for the rich and white —
I am Water
I am Earth
I am Fire
I am Air
We are engaged in a crisis of breath
We can overcome –
Our planet has a fever –
We know who is responsible
Look out the window, U.N.
The Debate is over
The Facts are in
The Evidence is clear
The next flood won’t be biblical
Stop the Fossil Fuel Octopus –
Stop the tentacles of tar sands and oil shale —
Our planet, our patience, our future –
Interfaith power and light –
The future of all life depends on our mindful steps –
We are the people
Walk with the river
This is what love looks like –
Activists are flooding Wall Street. The present is now locking hands with the future. We can thank the organizers for mapping the territory of our engagement.
Last night inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, with a great phoenix rising above the congregation, the Reverend Serene Jones said, “We have a soul-size work before us.”
Something has been set in motion. With throbbing feet, we are river-walking.
Terry Tempest Williams is a writer, naturalist, and provostial scholar at Dartmouth College. She is the author, most recently, of When Women Were Birds; her most recent piece for Orion, “The Glorious Indifference of Wilderness,” appears in the September/October 2014 issue.