I REMEMBER THE day I first got word that something big was coming for all of us seeking an opportunity to stand up and demand action on climate change. I was chatting with an organizer from 350.org—a group cofounded by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben—and he looked at me with the resignation of someone who knew he was about to get very, very busy.
He said, “Bill thinks we should create the biggest climate march in history.”
I knew then that I wanted to do my bit to make that wish come true, through a global solidarity event that has now become known as the “People’s Climate March”. The march happens in New York on September 21.
This global event is not just about folks gathering in the streets of New York; it’s a call to action for every climate activist across the world to put boots on the ground, marching to the beat of the words “Climate action now!” Solidarity events have sprung up all over the world on that key weekend.
In some of those places, climate action means shutting down dirty coal-fired power plants and investing in renewable energy. Here on the West Coast, it means stopping plans for new tar sands pipelines, oil tankers, and coal shipments.
For those of us in Vancouver, we’ve got an amazing opportunity to play a role in this international affair.
In a manicured park straddling the B.C.-Washington border stands a white arch, built to signify a peaceful and respectful relationship between Canada and the United States. It’s a unique place that allows residents of both countries to come together without crossing a border.
The Peace Arch Park lies on the traditional territory of the Semiahmoo First Nation, and is situated right on the 49th parallel. It is flanked by lineups of cars waiting for border inspectors to approve their entry into another country. Those lineups are parallel to a rail line scheduled to transport ever-increasing amounts of dirty coal to ports in Vancouver, destined for coal-fired power plants in Asia. In other words, this place is tailor-made for a giant climate rally in solidarity with the People’s Climate March in New York.
The idea of hosting a major gathering at the Peace Arch was sparked by the awesome organizers at 350 Seattle. We at the Wilderness Committee and Georgia Strait Alliance jumped at the offer to ensure Canadian involvement. We have joined together as partners in our campaign to Save the Salish Sea, referring to the body of water along our coast that is slated to become a carbon corridor for dirty coal and tar sands oil. The campaign seeks to build a human wall in the face of an onslaught from the fossil fuel industry.
First Nations allies from the Protect the Sacred initiative will also be part of the Peace Arch event, along with members of the Semiahmoo First Nation, who will officially welcome the crowd.
We have the opportunity to create a beautiful ceremony of solidarity and friendship, bringing together a diverse group of the change-makers eager to end the onslaught of fossil fuel exports in the region. On the Salish Sea alone, those exports could soon total more than 300 million tonnes of carbon per year. That’s a monstrous contribution to runaway climate change, and five times what is officially produced by the whole province of British Columbia. We are not about to let that happen—not on our watch!
We realize there’s a little distance involved in participating in an event at the border crossing, but it takes effort to make change. The climate crisis will not get addressed by our political “leaders” until it is clear to them that a diverse and determined community has come together around the issue. Leading up to the march in New York on September 21, there will also be solidarity events in other countries such as Australia and India on the 20th. Over 300 solidarity rallies are currently planned in North America alone.
On Saturday, September 20, come join us at the Peace Arch. We need your help in making a clear and united statement to the fossil fuel industry and governments everywhere: we will not lie down. We will not allow our place in this world to become a doormat for the fossil fuel industry in its bid to accelerate destructive climate change. We are standing together, on the 20th of September and every day after that.
I hope to see you there.