Oscar Wilde said, “The only cynic is a failed romantic.” This post is for all of you who would have loved to love the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21st, 2014, but didn’t.
Somewhere between 310,000 and 400,000 of us marched on Sunday, depending on which source you get your numbers from. That’s a heck of a lot of people hopeful and motivated enough about our ability to positively impact climate change to show up. Some traveled from other countries to attend.
But before I ever arrived at 71st Street and Central Park West, the meeting point for the Food Justice contingent I was marching with, snarky tweets and demoralizing FB statuses had already started coming in.
I read that the march wouldn’t make a difference. I read that no matter how many of us showed up, the folks at the UN meeting wouldn’t change anything because corporate money rules political power, and both are in bed with climate-raping practices like factory-farmed animal meat and big oil.
I read that only retro-hippie types in their seventies and twenty-something hipsters, most of them white, were marching. I read that they were leaving their fast food disposable cups and other trash in the street when they couldn’t find enough trash cans to service them, a direct contradiction to the idea of taking care of your environment.
But the march was amazing. The organizers (who need better arrangements for trash collection along the route next time) hoped for 100,000. They got over three times that many of us to show up. The energy of over 300,000 people raising their voices in support of an urgent cause they believe they can do something about is something I hope you get to experience.
Many others have already posted about how amazing the minute of silence followed by the roar of voices was. There were also fascinating, hopeful connections being made between inventors with solutions to energy issues and people who could hook them up with customers. There was also a lot of simple, wonderful, human fun like drummers and puppets and dancers who kept us focused and energized even when the march didn’t get going until over an hour after it was supposed to.
Checking in online the day after the march, though, was a bummer.
I read the word “hypocrisy” many times, including in a status update from a friend I have great respect for. She, too, referenced the huge amount of trash left behind by the march. I felt compelled to respond, and this is what I wrote in the comments:
I don’t think it’s possible to get over 300,000 humans together and not have a certain percentage be hypocritical assholes. But at 52 years old I’m hardly a hipster, and I marched yesterday. As for trash, when the woman in front of me couldn’t figure out what to do with an apple core because there weren’t any trash cans near by, I put it in an empty container I had to take to the compost collection at my local Greenmarket. You can focus on the jerks who littered at a climate march, or you can focus on those of us who went out of our way not to. Both narratives are true.
at the People’s Climate March 2014
In response, one of my friend’s friends said it would be great if I could share an article “highlighting the beauty of it.” This was someone who had been interested in the march, but ultimately not motivated enough by the pr to attend it. I didn’t know of such an article, so I said I’d write it.
I think cynicism and perfectionism are two of the most dangerous mindsets on the planet right now. Both encourage people to opt out of actually doing anything. But perfectionism is the most dangerous of all. It’s so dangerous that it can become ridiculous.
The empty container I had to receive that woman’s apple core on the march was a Tupperware one that had previously held my lunch. It was made out of plastic, a petroleum product. Should I not have offered to solve her organic trash problem out of shame for the origins of my container?
Or should I have asked her, “Before you give me that core, I need to know: Was that apple organically, locally grown?” And if not, should I have refused to take it from her?
You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be the poster child for environmental responsibility.
But you do have to do something. Dare to hope, and don’t be a failed romantic.
And now I need to stop writing this post and email the organizers of the People’s Climate march to tell them they need to do better about trash collection on the next march.
Free Food Preservation Talk and Book Signing for Slow Food NYC at The Farm on Adderley September 24 7:00 – 8:30pm
Food Preservation Demo and Book Signing at the Sunnyside, Queens Greenmarket September 27 10:00am-12:30pm
My new books are out!
120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries
“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” - Sam Thayer
“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos