Why am I back here again?

by Annie Leonard

September 19, 2014

Activists gather at the Spirit of Justice Park on Capitol Hill before marching to the Capitol Power Plant in Washington. The march against the coal fired plant that services the U.S. Capitol is the biggest climate demonstration in U.S. history.

© Greenpeace / Tim Aubry

Like thousands of others, Im here In New York to march alongside my friends, allies and partners that are fighting for environmental justice at the Peoples Climate March this Sunday. And yet I find myself asking, how is it that Im back here again?.

My journey with the environmental movement began at college right here in New York in the early 80s. I remember a professor telling me about climate change in environmental science class in 1985. If we had started making changes then, to wean the world off fossil fuels, it could have been painless. By now we would have so many benefits – from cleaner air and oceans to better public transit. Instead, those in power delayed and procrastinated, and let the fossil fuel industry obstruct progress. Now the situation is dire. The Arctic is melting. Communities near and far, from the Rockaways, to Alaska, to Kiribati, are losing their livelihoods to the impacts of climate change. And yet companies like Shell drill for more oil, so the world can burn more oil, and the problems get bigger and bigger.

The people gathering in New York feel that new level of urgency. Thats why such a big, beautiful and diverse movement will be voting with their feet on Sunday. This is the moment to tell their stories – the retired underground coal miner from Kentucky, or the Hurricane Sandy survivor – these are the people who will speak for the whole movement before the marchers make their way through Manhattan.

They say the best time to plant an oak tree was twenty years ago. And the second best time is now. I feel the same when it comes to fighting climate change. I wish we had started when I walked these very same streets as an undergraduate. Since then, I’ve tried a whole lot of strategies to promote solutions and I increasingly realize that reason and facts alone won’t make change. People power will. So the time has come to take to the streets. And I am ready to do everything I can to ensure it happens as I return to New York as the new Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.

Annie Leonard

By Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard is the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. Leonard began her career at Greenpeace in 1988 and has returned to help the organization inspire and mobilize millions of people to take action to create a more sustainable future together. She is based in San Francisco.

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