On September 21, hundreds of thousands of people will march through Manhattan to show leaders from around the world, particularly US politicians, that the American public supports and demands action on climate change.
The People's Climate March, which is being organized by 350.org, is timed to coincide with a UN climate summit in the city. World leaders will meet to begin laying the groundwork for climate treaty talks in Paris next year.
Rochester-area climate activists are trying to get as many local people as possible to participate in the march and have formed the Rochester People's Climate Coalition. The coalition is raising local awareness of the event, and will charter a bus to take marchers to Manhattan.
"Climate change seems to be absent from our discourse on a whole lot of levels," says coalition member Sue Hughes-Smith of Brighton. "We're definitely hoping to bring that into people's conversations."
Hughes-Smith says that she wants her children to have an "optimistic future." Left unaddressed, human-driven shifts in climate will make food and water supplies more unpredictable, which will impact all regions of the world, she says.
Abigail McHugh-Grifa of Rochester says that she sees action on climate change as a matter of family and community values. Climate change will cause problems for both the current generation and future generations, she says.
The US is a strong voice in the world — it's also the leading economy and one of the most populous countries — and needs to lead on climate change, McHugh-Grifa says. And action needs to include drastic reductions in greenhouse gases, she says.
"It feels very now or never for me," she says.
Linda Isaacson Fedele of Perinton says that the march is about making climate change personal. There is a lot of credible information available on climate change, she says, but it doesn't seem to be swaying people.
"But when you see your neighbor, or your friend, or your relative care about something enough to either go to New York City to participate in the march or help in some other way, it speaks to us at a deeper level and it makes us think that it's something that maybe might affect us," she says.
And that awareness is crucial to convince the public to support political action on climate change, which should encourage lawmakers to act, coalition members say.
More information on the Rochester People's Climate Coalition, including registration information or the bus trip to the New York City march: http://peoplesclimate.org/westernny/.
This article has been corrected.