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The People's Climate March

The march is scheduled for Sunday, September 21, at 11:30, two days before heads of state and government, business, and civic leaders, meet for the 2014 Global Summit on Climate

“We’re really in a major crisis and this is a very important event,” says volunteer Sarah Kolodny, a yoga practitioner and activist with 350nyc, a group that works for climate change. The march is completely volunteer-run, with more than 700 organizations nationwide participating.Change.

By mobilizing huge numbers, organizers hope to emphasize our awareness of the problem and the need for climate action on the part of world leaders and - in particular - call on President Obama to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by the year 2030, explains Kolodny.

“This event is a natural for people with a yoga practice, who are concerned about the environment, and our interdependence,” says Kolodny. She cited India as one country greatly affected by climate change, and suggested this is a chance to give back to yoga’s source.

“I’m of a generation that remembers the March on Washington in ‘63 that had a huge impact on civil rights, the nuclear disarmament march in ‘82, the ‘87 National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights,” says Kolodny, 74. These marches become a ‘tipping point’ of a larger voice that says: we can’t let this continue.”

There are a wide variety of interfaith and spiritual organizations involved, including The Interdependence Project, asecular Buddhist meditation center that addresses issues of social change. “There really isn’t anything we’re more interdependent with than the environment,” said Caroline Contillo, IDP’s transformational activism coordinator. Transformational activism includes the personal experience, the interpersonal and the deeper social context, she explained, noting that while many IDP meditators don’t identify themselves as activists, the march offers an opportunity to take the practice into the world.

“Climate change is a very pressing issue that brings up a Buddhist perspective: if things are rooted in a confused view, that can have a [negative] global impact.” In this case, the “confused view” is that we are separate from our environment and from each other, which causes suffering.

Contillo hopes the march engages large numbers of activists, garners widespread media attention, and influences world leaders – but she also sees it as an opportunity for mindfulness practice.

With so many different people involved, there are bound to be differing perspectives, she said. “Rather than having a very specific idea of how things are supposed to happen, [we can] note how they’re actually happening, and that’s a step towards real transformation and sustainable change.”

There are a myriad of ways for individuals to get involved, even before the march, including organizing buses, distributing flyers and posters, and hosting out of town participants. Kolodny suggested yoga teachers might want to offer restorative classes to weary activists after the march.

Related events are planned throughout the weekend, including an educational train ride carrying participants from San Francisco to New York City, a bike ride from New York City to Washington D.C. dedicated to sustainability and bike advocacy, and a forum on the need for an international treaty, sponsored by 350nyc and the Society for Ethical Culture.

The march will begin at Columbus Circle and run through midtown Manhattan to 42nd Street via 6th Avenue. For more information on the march, related events and ways to get involved, click here.

--Karen Schwartz

For more information on Karen Schwartz, a New York City based yoga therapist, meditation teacher and writer. click here.

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