By Margaret Klein
The lack of demands at the People's Climate March is a golden opportunity. We, the marchers, will determine the demands.
This article originally appeared on the Climate Mobilization website here.
A Movement and a March: Full of Possibilities
The People’s Climate March on September 21st will likely be the largest march for climate action that has ever taken place. We should be grateful to the organizers and sponsoring organizations for putting so much time, energy, and resources into persuading tens (or hundreds!) of thousands of people to come to New York City. The march will bring passionate people together from across the world, to demand a response to climate change, and to make connections with each other, creating a broader movement going forward. The march has already accomplished a good deal in terms of raising awareness—and people's spirits—while focusing on inclusivity and diversity. There is much to be proud of here.
However, the People's Climate March has faced sharp criticism in recent weeks. Christopher Hedges charged that the march will be nothing more than a “climate-themed street fair,” given that it will lack formal demands and speeches and will adhere to the demands of state authorities.
The only answer, Hedges writes, is direct action: “This resistance will be effective only when we refuse to do what we are told, when we turn from a liberal agenda of reform to embrace a radical agenda of revolt.”
While Hedges' passion is to be admired, his proposed strategy is vague and unpersuasive. What are the revolt’s demands and how will they be accomplished? He calls for marchers to “disrupt” the machinery of corporate capitalism, and to establish self-sufficient local communities. But how, precisely, will disruption and local action lead to drastic and rapid emissions reductions? How could it usher in the war-time mobilization widely regarded as necessary to stave off catastrophic climate disruption? Hedges barely goes there. Direct action is a tactic, but not, in itself, a comprehensive theory of change.
Hedges argues that if “we play by the rules, we lose.” Fair enough. “The rules” as they currently exist are destroying the climate and placing all of humanity in peril. But breaking the rules is thinking too small. We need to rewrite the rules.