There IS No Planet B: Reflections from the People’s Climate March

Julie Slavet
Sep 30, 2014

Guest Blog by Jamie Gauthier, Executive Director at Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia


On Sunday, September 21st, I attended the People’s Climate March along with 400,000 other citizens demanding action on climate change. The march was my first action of this magnitude (not being a part of the protest generation of the 60’s and 70’s), and I found it awe-inspiring. Though I’ve always been a person that has felt connected to other people and to causes, being in the streets with so many others made me feel more than ever before that I was a part of something way bigger than myself.

I headed to the march with Judy Wicks (the undisputed mother of the sustainable economy movement) and Craig Johnson, a Sustainable Business Network member. We took Amtrak with no other noticeable march-goers. We were herded onto the quiet car (as it was the only one with three seats), Judy and Craig using the quiet time to work silently, but furiously, on signs for the march. I sat next to a detective from Philly who was headed to NYC as well, but for the Yankees game. We engaged in a quiet-car-appropriate, but still spirited debate around climate change. He, challenging the idea that climate change is happening at all, or that is human-caused (“didn’t Obama invent some kind of report around that?”).

Arriving in New York, was well, New York-ish. People everywhere. We boarded the subway, and it was packed. With marchers, but with tourists and residents, too. A couple visiting from Idaho, an Australian working at the UN, a resident cursing her luck to have gotten on THIS CROWDED TRAIN.

And then, finally we were there at 72nd Street. We arrived to find throngs of people. The crowd was at once urgent, but joyous, too. Their signs conveyed messages of protest, but in ways that were artful and beautiful. “Oil is Killing Our Children’s Future”, “Save the Humans” and the inspiration for this post’s title “There is No Planet B”. Children swirled around or sat on their parents’ shoulders. There were marching bands. This was a celebration of the earth and a call to protect it at the same time.

I was struck by the diversity of messages. Drive electric cars! Support green power! Green jobs! Patronize triple bottom line businesses! Fight for climate justice! Disinvest! All TRUE environmentalists are vegan! WAR is not green! Different angles, and different camps, all combining towards a common goal of bringing attention to climate change and the need to address it. In other words, there are many different ways to do it, but let’s get it done.

The march (at least, as we experienced it) went from 72nd Street to Times Square. And, oh, the irony of ending there, in the place where the free market reigns most free. The people gathering and demanding a different type of economy- one that recognizes that the resources of the earth are finite- while the images of the traditional economic system blared on larger-than-life screens. And the Times Square ticker telling market news, while making no mention of all the people demanding a difference.

And, thinking of that juxtaposition, I’m taken back to the man that I sat next to on the train ride up to New York. The nice one, who seemed like Philadelphia’s everyman and his allusion to climate change as just some notion that the President invented. And, I’m left with the following:

  • What impact will this march leave?
  • How can all the various parts of this movement band together towards a common agenda? And can that agenda turn into a public policy push?
  • What is the role of private industry in this effort, and how, in particular, can the conscious business community band together to bring about real change?
  • And, how can we influence the everyman (my detective friend)?

Let me know what you think (and if you were there, too)!

Jamie Gauthier is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN), a business membership organization representing over 400 locally-owned businesses in the Philadelphia region. To continue the conversation on how businesses can positively impact climate change, join SBN at its October 7thTriple Bottom Line Series Event. For more information, or to join this community of local businesses and local business enthusiasts, #2030NOW

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