With world leaders gathering on September 21 for the United Nation Climate Summit in New York City, activists have also been busy preparing for The People’s Climate March, a historic gathering that has the endorsement of nearly 1,000 organizations including unions, faith communities, social justice organizations, and schools.
Activists are fully aware that a top-down approach alone will not solve some of the biggest environmental crises. The Climate March will be an opportunity to galvanize media attention and resources, and to ensure more voices are at the table.
“Climate change affects all of us, but it disproportionately impacts those in the Global South, communities of color, and working class communities in the U.S. These are the communities that battle with climate change for months, sometimes years, after a climate disaster strikes,” Marc Weiss, North Star Fund donor and long-time activist, expressed.
“The People’s Climate March is an opportunity to be part of something inspirational and transformational. Like the women’s movement and civil rights movement, this is an opportunity to be part of something that could change the course of history,” Weiss continued.
While it matters immensely what governments and big environmental organizations do to shift policy, change has always demanded a groundswell of people, from all walks of life, investing time, energy, and resources.
Many groups entered the environmental justice movement out of necessity and have since made it a central to their organizing. North Star Fund grantees such as CAAAV Organizing Asian Communitiesfound themselves on the frontlines of relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, given the desperate need to distribute food and emergency supplies to Chinatown residents, in the absence of formal relief. Other North Star Fund grantees such as Rockaway Wildfire are continuing to fight for resources to rebuild their homes, in neighborhoods where poverty was exacerbated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
North Star Fund grantee Damayan has also taken leadership around climate justice issues. Environmental policies including gas emissions, corporate agribusiness, mining, logging and over-fishing has everything to do with the migration of 4,700 Filipinos who are mostly finding jobs as domestic workers in New York City. “We are organizing our members because we know first-hand that climate justice affects everyone, and harsh environments overseas force people to leave their families. We are organizing because we want people to understand these connections,” noted Linda Oalican, Damayan Overall Coordinator.
Stephen Roberson, Organizing Director at Community Voices Heard, a former North Star Fund grantee shared, “We are gathering key leaders from across the five boroughs including public housing residents and folks in workforce development programs. We are mobilizing individuals in upstate New York including Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Yonkers, Peekskill, White Plains, and Mount Vernon. While climate change affects everyone, it is poor and working people who are the most defenseless. They can’t just move or rebuild. When mold grows and asthma takes hold and incineration units are built on their block, poor and working people have nowhere to go. We are training our members to keep an eye on what’s happening in their neighborhoods, so they won’t be victim to bad policies, and we’re mobilizing them to get their stories out there and to march. Their lives, their futures, are at stake.”
In addition to The People’s Climate March, events will be organized around the city from challenging fossil fuels and fracking to organizing around food security and disaster preparedness. North Star Fund in partnership with Global Greengrants Fund and Bolder Giving is hosting a panel on Tuesday, September 23, on Women and Climate Justice, withHelena Wong, Global Grassroots Justice National Organizer and former executive director of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities in N.Y.C., Ursula Rakova, executive director of Tulele Peisa, a community organization in Papua New Guinea, Regan Pritzker, a board member of the Libra Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to women’s rights and environmental and social justice, and Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!
As the discussions around climate change take on increased urgency, North Star Fund will continue to leverage its resources to ensure that grassroots activists have a seat at the table and help shape policies that will impact New York City for years to come.