Before It’s Too Late

Guest Post by Rosemary Spalding, Earth Charter Indiana board president. (Part 2 of 2 of a firsthand report on the Sept. 21 People’s Climate March).

My husband Mark and I stayed  in Newark, NJ the night before the People’s Climate March. Early Sunday morning we began to make our way to 66th and Central Park West to meet a new contact from Earth Charter International. As we rode the train from Newark to NYC and then the subway to Central Park, our excitement built as we joined with dozens of others making their way to the march. Smiling people in T-shirts with names of organizations from all over the country packed subway cars that were standing room only.

Photo by Rosemary Spalding

Photo by Rosemary Spalding

When Mark and I emerged from the subway station at 66th Street, several volunteers welcomed us, directing us to our spot in the march. About 30 minutes before the march was to begin, people flowed into the wide street that borders Central Park on the west, filling it from curb to curb. While we stood in the street waiting, I just looked around, taking it all in. People were lined up behind us all the way to 86th St. and in front of us all the way to Columbus Circle.

Photo of Columbus Circle by Rosemary Spalding

Photo of Columbus Circle by Rosemary Spalding

It was crowded, and we learned later that many marchers couldn’t even fit in the street until the march had progressed several blocks. Many people carried homemade signs and some wore costumes. But most were simply there—joining in solidarity with others to demonstrate before our government and other world leaders gathering for the United Nations summit, that we demand action to address this urgent global crisis.

Communities displaced by climate change marched  in the demonstration. Photo by Christine Irvine.

Communities displaced by climate change marched in the demonstration. Photo by Christine Irvine.

And then the most exciting thing happened! I saw someone making his way through the crowd, like a salmon swimming upstream, coming towards me. As he drew closer I realized I recognized him. Like a teenaged groupie at a rock concert, I yelled, “LOOK, IT’S BILL McKIBBEN!”

I immediately felt foolish, but he looked over at me and smiled as he passed, never missing a step. I think I said “thank you” as he walked by. By the time I could get my iPhone out, he had been swallowed up by the upstream crowd that parted to let him pass.

Photo by Emma Cassidy

Photo by Emma Cassidy

As we walked the two miles past famous landmarks and through Times Square, hundreds of supporters on the sidewalks waved us by. We never saw a single person who challenged our message. Every so often throughout the march, a thunderous “sound wave” would come from in front of or behind us, and we would raise our voices and play musical instruments as the wave passed through on its way to the beginning or end of the march. Goosebumps!

At the end of the march people gathered for entertainment at several stages. I watched the Raging Grannies as they sang their versions of “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Roll Back the Barrels,” and “The Climate—It is A-Changin’.” Music and humor—welcome relief for such a serious subject.

Over 400,000 people marched in New York City that Sunday. Add to that the thousands attending local climate marches all over the country and the world, and you know that we cannot be dismissed as radical tree-huggers.

To the contrary—the People’s Climate March was mainstream. We witnessed an incredibly diverse collection of people of all ages and from all walks of life; people from every state and many nations; people of every color and culture; labor unions and healthcare workers; youth groups, college students and professors, parents and grandparents. All marching, singing and chanting for a common purpose—to say that we, the citizens of the world, recognize the direness of our situation and unite to convince our leaders to change course before it’s too late.

Photo by Amy Dewan

Photo by Amy Dewan

As Mark and I traveled back to Newark, exhausted but exhilarated from the day’s experience, I wondered—did we make a difference? I said a silent prayer: This time let those in power take notice; let meaningful change finally occur.

Rosemary Spalding is board president of Earth Charter Indiana and a founding member of the Irvington Green Initiative. She is an attorney with Spalding & Hilmes, PC, which is located in Irvington and concentrates its practice in environmental law.

Why I Marched in the People’s Climate March

Guest Post by Rosemary Spalding, Earth Charter Indiana board president. (Part 1 of 2).

Like most folks, I am concerned about a number of serious issues, but when it comes to climate change, my passion has turned into a kind of internal panic. My panic builds when I read reports that it is happening much faster than scientists were predicting less than 10 years ago.

Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations have increased so much that we’re no longer talking about avoiding tipping points or reversing global warming. We’re now talking about slowing the process as much as possible and adapting to the inevitable.

I think about the beautiful, bright children of my nieces and nephews and about the grandchildren I hope to have someday, and I am terrified for them. To what kind of existence are we condemning them and their children?

Photo of young NYC activists by Rosemary Spalding.

Photo of young NYC activists by Rosemary Spalding

Most of my votes, letters, and phone calls to government leaders at all levels have been completely ineffective. Earth Charter Indiana recently petitioned the Indiana Environmental Rules Board (ERB) to adopt a rule to develop a climate action plan for Indiana.

Despite the fact that over a thousand Hoosiers have signed the petition, the board dismissed it at their last meeting. Board members thought a climate action plan was someone else’s job—certainly not their job.

The ERB would not even grant a public hearing on the petition (which Earth Charter Indiana believes it is required to do under Indiana’s law permitting citizen rulemaking petitions).

Photo By Shadia Fayne Wood

Photo By Shadia Fayne Wood

That citizen petition (with extensive supporting documents) took months to prepare. The articulate and passionate young people of Youth Power Indiana respectfully submitted the petition to the ERB. But board members were unmoved.

I must confess that the ERB’s casual dismissal has shaken my fundamental belief in the integrity of our democracy. We are disheartened—but we are not done advocating for change. See the note at the end of this post to lend your support.

In the meantime, I had hoped to go to New York City to participate in the People’s Climate March—but the ERB’s cavalier rejection of a citizen petition cemented my resolve. I wanted to join with others to tell our government and world leaders gathering for the United Nations summit that we demand action—NOW.

Photo By: Emma Cassidy

Photo By Emma Cassidy

I have participated in lots of climate change rallies in Indianapolis as well as the march in Washington, DC last February, when 40,000 people turned out in the frigid cold to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But those experiences did not prepare me for what we experienced at the People’s Climate March last Sunday…

(To be continued in Part 2).

Note: If you are an Indiana resident dismayed by the Environmental Rules Board’s lack of attention to a citizen petition, please consider attending the next ERB meeting in support of a climate action plan.

When: Wednesday, November 12, 1:30-4:00 p.m.
Where: Indiana Government Center South – Conference Room A (check for meeting or room changes here.)
RSVP: or 317.371.2788

Want to do more? Contact Indiana Environmental Rules Board Members today to urge them to hold a hearing on the Petition for a Climate Action Plan for Indiana! Find contact information for board members here.

Rosemary Spalding is board president of Earth Charter Indiana and a founding member of the Irvington Green Initiative. She is an attorney with Spalding & Hilmes, PC, which is located in Irvington and concentrates its practice in environmental law.

A Sacred Act

“Healing the wounds of the earth and its people does not require saintliness or a political party, only gumption and persistence. it is not a liberal or a conservative activity; it is a sacred act. It is a massive enterprise undertaken by ordinary citizens everywhere…”

—Paul Hawken, in Blessed Unrest

People's Climate March 2014 NYC
Some 400,000 people demonstrated for climate action in New York City last weekend. (A friend and I went to the youth-led Bloomington rally to help “raise the alarm” about climate change; the best part after the hooting and hollering was singing “We’ve got the whole world in our hands.”)

Stay tuned for a guest post from someone who joined the NYC demonstration.