.By Kristy Spengler
Our bus left Burlington’s Waterfront Park at 4:30 a.m. Sept. 21 bound for the People’s Climate March in New York City. We were one of 17 buses from Vermont and part of a group of more than 1,200 Vermonters, the largest state contingent by population.
Upon arrival at the march we were part of a crowd that stretched from 53rd to 95th street. Because of the sheer numbers, it took the back of the line over two hours to start moving.
The final estimate of people attending the demonstration was 400,000. Hundreds of thousands more took part in demonstrations around the world. There were 1,574 participating organizations, 2,646 events and 162 countries participating. It was the largest social demonstration of the decade.
The timing of the march coincided with the U.N. climate summit gathered in New York City to work out an international carbon emissions agreement prior to the Paris climate meeting in 2015. The People’s Climate March was scheduled to send a message to President Obama and attendees of the United Nations summit on climate change to take decisive action to stop global warming pollution, because our future is at stake.
I was in awe of all the people from different walks of life, the positive energy, creativity and more than anything else, hope. The peaceful, colorful parade and the amount of people were energizing.
Many of the groups highlighted the failure of unbridled capitalism as an economic model, capitalism destroying the possibility of a livable planet, capitalism extracting wealth from 99 percent of people and handing it to billionaires, capitalism not taking into consideration the environmental cost of production of goods and services and instead using the planet as a dumping ground, polluting our air, water and the soil we depend on to sustain us into the future. I was surprised by this shared theme as I walked the length of the parade. I came away thinking that capitalism better get its act together quickly if it wants to become a viable economic model.
I have been vocal in calling for quick and decisive action to stem the use of fossil fuels that create global warming gases responsible for the change in climate and its catastrophic effects we are witnessing in Vermont and around the globe. I am proud that Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sanders, Rep. Welch and Gov. Shumlin are calling for action as well.
Some scientists say we have gone past the tipping point and catastrophe and mass extinction is upon us. I prefer to believe that if the United States and the world agree to swift, decisive reduction in global warming pollution that we and future generations have a chance for a livable future. Doing so will provide the local, livable-wage jobs we are in dire need of and continue to clamor for.
As a nurse, I am compelled to act because climate change is the number one health issue facing us today. A Sept. 21 Time Magazine online article written by Charlotte Alter quotes Dr. Erica Frank — a fellow marcher who specializes in preventative medicine in British Columbia: “It’s one of the most important threats to world health, and it’s completely preventable,” she says. “It would be irresponsible for us to do nothing.”
Kristy Spengler represents Colchester in the Vermont House of Representatives.