Marching Matters Ahead Of The Paris Climate Talks

11/19/2015 12:04 EST | Updated 11/19/2016 05:12 EST
ADEM ALTAN via Getty Images
Members of Turkish leftist movements shout slogans during an anti-G20 protest in Antalya, on November 15, 2015. Leaders from the world's top 20 industrial powers meet in Turkey from November 15 seeking to overcome differences on a range of issues including the Syria conflict, the refugee crisis and climate change. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A hotter planet creates a more unstable world. Whether it's the brunt force of a hurricane or the creeping of drought and desertification, we, by dumping carbon into the atmosphere, are making parts of this world difficult or impossible to live in. We are no longer in a position to stop this, and so now we -- both the climate movement specifically, and people on a grander scale -- face a choice: to come together or to tear apart.

I'll be honest, when I first heard of plans for a global day of climate marches on November 29, I rolled my eyes. More and more it seemed like the world was forgetting the lessons of Copenhagen and throwing good money after bad at another round of climate talks. In some ways, I still feel like that might be the case with the actual negotiations, but after recent events in Paris and Beirut, the global mobilizations on and after November 29 matter in a way they never could have before.

It's not that these marches now have some magical power to actually change what's going to happen at the negotiations Paris. The climate talks themselves are still likely to be a parade of false solutions, fossil fuel interest and heavily applauded half measures. The gap between the ambition of governments, like my own in Canada, and what the science says we need on climate change is still wider than the Grand Canyon. Even with that, right now global solidarity matters and the climate movement matters.

It's often been said that climate change is like no issue that we've ever had to tackle in all of human history. It's both massive and tiny. It's global in its scale, but unforgivingly local in its impacts. It's big enough to touch everything, while so broad to be central to very little. Knowing all this, the truth is that each march on November 29 is, by itself, pretty irrelevant. A single march doesn't change history, but taken together, millions of people in the streets across the planet could.

Think about it. On the same day that boots in Canada may be crunching through snow in Ottawa, feet in sandals could be rallying on the streets of Sao Paulo. On the same day, from Kyoto to Barcelona, thousands of people across hundreds of thousands of miles, despite language barriers and massive cultural differences, will be calling for the same basic thing -- for politicians to show an uncommon level of compassion for the world and take bold climate action.

A moment like this matters because at its best, the climate movement can be the antidote to the kind of divisive, isolated world that has given rise to the existential challenges of our time. It matters because the vision of a more just, sustainable and fair world that the climate movement is fighting for in every corner of this planet represents a different way of showing up.

November 29 can't be about showing up for ourselves, but needs to be about showing up for the millions of people we have never met and will never meet. It needs to be about showing up, not because we're afraid of what will happen if we don't, but because we have a profound hope for what can happen if we do.

See you in the streets.


World Climate Change March