Who cares about climate change? A lot of residents of Saugerties, judging from the turnout for the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, Sept. 21. A special bus from Saugerties carried a couple of dozen to New York, and at least that many went by car or train to join the estimated 400,000 people from all over the country who marched to demonstrate support for initiatives that would combat climate change.
While some Saugertiesians went to represent Frack Free Catskills, most went as individuals. For Cody Creek Farm owner Vivian Beatrice, the most impressive part of the event was the coordinated two-minute silence from 12:58 to 1 p.m., followed by what sounded to her like a roar from hundreds of thousands of throats. Jim Kricker, a Saugerties woodworker who was at the march with wife Jean, mentioned the sensuality of the cheering that traveled in waves from one end of the march to the other. “You could hear it coming up behind you and then washing over you,” he said. He also appreciated the great music and the creative banners and signs as well as the optimistic energy of the marchers.
Marlena Marallo and Patrick Wadden, artistic directors of Arm-of-the-Sea Theatre, also appreciated the waves of cheering. Wadden said cheering made him think of the marchers as cells in an enormous nervous system, an analogy reinforced by the connection of marchers to each other and to organizers through the ubiquitous smartphones.
The diversity of ages and ethnicities of marchers was noteworthy to everyone.
“The diversity spoke to the concern that people from all walks of life feel about this issue,” said Kricker.
“It wasn’t a typical protest march of radicals,” said artist Prue See. “I was impressed by the variety of people, ages, outfits, and organizations. I’ve been on a lot of marches, but never one as large, animated, and inspiring as this one.”
Virginia Luppino, Saugerties resident and outreach/education coordinator of the Woodstock Land Conservancy, was impressed by the number of families who turned out.
Vivian Beatrice said she marched with friends from Saugerties who traveled with her on the bus, and ran into a number of others during the day.
Even in the midst of the enormous number of people, “It’s really a small world,” said Prue See, who also kept running into people she knew.
For Dave Minch the march was like a big party. “I talked to probably 300 people,” he said.
Susan Murphy, resident of Cantine’s Island Cohousing in the village of Saugerties, serendipitously met Lanny Walter and Carole Furman.
Murphy went two days early to participate in training to be a Peacekeeper before and during the march. Her duties included being a block away from Central Park West hours before the march started to direct marchers to access points. During the march, however, “It was so peaceful there was nothing for me to do,” she said.
Murphy spent the Friday before the march at the Art Space at Be Electric Studios in Brooklyn, where she was recruited to letter all the flags that were used to divide the marchers by sections. She also participated in Monday’s “Flood Wall Street’ post-march event.
The panel held on Saturday night before the March at All Souls Church on the Upper East Side included Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, environmentalist Bill McKibbon, author Naomi Klein, journalist Chris Hedges and Seattle City Council member Kshama Savant, who pulled no punches in describing the way they see the problem and the lack of political possibilities for solving it. They urged citizens to take control of the issue and do whatever it takes to change the direction things are going.
An interfaith service at the cathedral of St John the Divine followed the march on Sunday evening. Prue See noted the haunting moment when a prominent Eskimo elder used his drum to call on the spirits of his ancestors to help stop the melting of the Arctic sea ice. “That message, echoing through the cathedral, was going far away,” she said. “One comes away with a very large question: Where do we go from here?”
The Krickers plan to incorporate some new ideas into their lifestyle, including looking into the vegan claims about the connection between climate change and eating meat. “The march is part of a long process of bringing change,” concluded Kricker.
Wadden said that Arm-of-the-Sea would continue doing plays with climate change as a major theme.
Murphy said that she and Frack Free Catskills organizer Sue Rosenberg marched together for a while and discussed ways to bring the message of the march home. “We need to take the energy and the inspiration and mobilize people in actionable ways. This will happen when we all get home again,” Murphy said.
Virginia Luppino said, “We need to find ways to appeal to people about climate change without overwhelming them.” Luppino pointed out that here in Saugerties, the abundance of prime agricultural land needs to be protected so it can stay in food production. Land trusts such as the Esopus Creek Conservancy already exist, she noted, but they need much more support than they currently get to be as effective as they need to be in preserving farmland.
Vivian Beatrice said the change would have to begin locally. “It would be worthwhile for Saugerties to look at the example of Burlington, VT, where hydroelectric power has been made available to residents. The power is in the hands of the villages and towns,” she said.
And the optimistic takeaway from the march? The same things that can prepare us for a difficult future turn out to the same things that can prevent the worst from happening and even make life better for everyone.