This weekend, the People’s Climate March took place in Washington, D.C., with more than 350 satellite events across the country. Despite being the hottest April 29 on record, thousands attended (more than 200,000 people marched, according to organizers’ estimates), including a number of ASLA Chapter Presidents, Trustees, past Presidents, members, and ASLA staff.
Below, we share some photographs from the march—more can be found on ASLA‘s and Landscape Architecture Magazine‘s social media pages—and we look forward to keeping up the momentum on this urgent and vitally important issue.
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People’s March for Climate Kick-Off
In addition to the march on Saturday, there were numerous related events that took place the week between the March for Science the previous weekend and the People’s March on April 29.
On April 28, the World Resources Institute hosted a teach-in focusing on how climate change is impacting our world and what we can do about it, with the aim of kicking off the next day’s march from a position of knowledge after an afternoon of discussions. Speakers including Gus Speth, WRI Founder and Former Administrator, United Nations Development Programme; Mike Tidwell, Founder & Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network; and Andrew Steer, President & CEO, WRI; shared stories and short presentations highlighting how we can mobilize to push for continued action on climate change.
Harriet C. Babbitt, Vice Chair, WRI Global Board and Former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, started off the event, stating that climate change is the defining issue of our time, whether you are a forestry or water specialist, or working on human rights or democratic institutions. While it is imperative to acknowledge the urgency of dealing with climate change and the need for immediate action, Paula Caballero, Global Director of the WRI Climate Program, emphasized how the People’s March is also about hope and showing what we can do. In addition, Caballero discussed the importance of decoupling greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth—there need not be a direct relationship between the two; growth has been achieved even when greenhouse gas emissions are flat.
Edward Maibach, Distinguished Professor of Communications at George Mason University, gave an overview of how to communicate climate change, highlighting one especially pernicious problem: many people do not feel comfortable talking about climate change. It becomes exceedingly difficult to solve a problem if people are not talking about it. According to Maibach, one of the best ways to engage is to share why you are concerned about climate change, rather than directly trying to change the opinion of those who may disagree.
One slide shown during Maibach’s presentation illustrated the six Americas post-election 2016. When it comes to climate change, Americans are: alarmed (18%), concerned (34%), cautious (23%), disengaged (5%), doubtful (11%), or dismissive (9%). These groups are based on different beliefs, concerns, and motivations, and came out of nine years of research performed by Yale University and George Mason University. Over that time, more Americans now fall into the alarmed category than when the study first began. For more information, Maibach referred attendees to the Yale Climate Opinion Maps.
He concluded with a brief summary of the five beliefs that determine where you fall on the spectrum of climate change opinion, short enough to fit on a t-shirt: “It’s real. It’s us. Experts agree. It’s bad. But there’s hope.”
Kimberley Thomas, Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Pennsylvania, described an important lesson she learned after considering the question: what is the face of vulnerability to climate change? Initially, she saw climate change as a global issue that would affect everyone around the world, equally. But she came to realize that the answer really depends on where you’re looking. Everyone is affected, but some populations more so than others. Environmental justice, and the uneven effects of climate change, need to be taken into consideration in order to glean a more complete understanding of the consequences of climate change around the world.
To conclude, Sam Adams, former Mayor of Portland, Oregon and now Director of WRI United States, shared the two reasons why he is taking part in the march. Growing up on the Oregon coast, the son of a fisherman, he saw first-hand the impact of slow-moving climate change on families and communities, when the cold water current that previously ensured a supply of fish close to shore, moved further off shore, disrupting the local fishing industry. Because of that change, entire communities disappeared, and changes like this are taking place around the world.
Second, he underlined that fact that protests make an impact. In the 1980s, he saw how President Ronald Reagan eased his anti-environment agenda in the face of protests—involvement does matter. This is how to forestall the worst of the worst. Speaker Edward Maibach had a similar message: the single most important thing you can do is to contact your elected representatives. Our greatest lever of change is acting as citizens.
For more information, and to get involved:
- Keep up with breaking advocacy issues through ASLA’s iAdvocate Network.
- Sign up to receive ASLA iAdvocate Network email alerts.
- Information on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Regulatory Reform, including opportunities for public participation.
- See ASLA’s Combating Climate Change with Landscape Architecture Guide, one of 14 Sustainable Design Guides.
by Alexandra Hay, Professional Practice Coordinator at ASLA