Across City, Weekend Rallies to Curb Climate Change
The New York Times
October 26, 2009
By Mike Reicher
Mirva Lempiainen Members of the environmental group Time’s Up dressed as suffering polar bears in Saturday’s protest.
A few New Yorkers strapped on swim fins Saturday and biked through Manhattan, protesting against global warming like the Congolese fishermen in the photographs that were streaming simultaneously on the giant video screens in Times Square.
It was all part of a coordinated global demonstration about the rising level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. The organizers of the event at 350.org inspired Columbia University students to dance to the tune of 350 bells ringing from the nearby Cathedral of St. John the Divine. (For some prominent climate scientists, 350 parts per million is the upper limit for heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If the gas concentration exceeds that for long, they warn, the world can expect decades of disrupted climate patterns, with potentially disastrous consequences.)
Saturday’s events were planned to get people talking before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December in Copenhagen, where some believe a significant global climate agreement could emerge.
“At least I can tell the future generation that I did something before it got worse,” said Barbara Leiterman, 39, who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and later waved a sign in Times Square. She has been following the climate change debate since the 1990s, she said, and sometimes fights back a sense of resignation.
No such resignation was expressed by the founder of 350.org, the environmental writer and advocate Bill McKibben, who appealed to a crowd in Times Square for forceful action on heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
In more than 50 events throughout New York City, activists set out to, among other things, plant 3,500 trees and make a collage with 350 colorful condoms. In one of the more solitary forms of expression, a protester planned to sing Puccini’s “Vissi d’Arte” a cappella at the Hudson River shoreline “to lament species being erased by global warming.”
The protest in Times Square basked under the light-emitting diodes of the giant Nasdaq, Reuters and Panasonic/News Corporation signs. Each company donated one hour of time on its sign so that 350.org could stream 100 photos and graphs.
Earlier this year, the camera and copier company Ricoh unveiled the first “eco-board” in Times Square, a billboard run only on solar and wind energy. It wasn’t part of the demonstration.
Mike Reicher/The New York Times Climate change activists held a rally in Times Square on Saturday as part of the 350.org observance.