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Climate Change Activists Take Over Manhattan to Demand Action

An estimated 400,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan over the weekend to demand world leaders take action on climate change.

The People's Climate March, which some are calling the single largest call for climate action ever, took place ahead of Tuesday's emergency UN Climate Summit.

Joining the march were several labor unions, former Vice President Al Gore, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Norton. The march was four times larger than pre-march estimates - it took the back of the line more than two hours to get moving, and by 5 p.m., organizers had to send marchers a text message asking them to leave as the route has reached full capacity.

Today, civil society acted at a scale that outdid even our own wildest expectations," May Boeve, executive director of 350.0rg, a global climate movement, said in a statement. "Tomorrow, we expect our political leaders to do the same."

Climate change has wide impacts on social and economic conditions globally. From food and water insecurity to an expected increase in poverty, loss of housing and property - as illustrated in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy right in New York City and neighboring New Jersey - and increased risk for displacement, conflict, and spread of disease, climate change is a multifaceted social justice and feminist issue.

As explained by Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), "Climate change exacerbates existing inequalities and vulnerabilities. Persons who face intersecting inequalities due to discrimination based on gender, gender identity, disability, race, ethnicity, economic status, age, among others, are among those populations least likely to be able to withstand the inevitable effects of climate change. Addressing inequality and climate change go hand in hand."

Some of these connections were made clear in Washington, DC by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) who introduced a House resolution last year on the disproportionate impact of climate change on women, especially on "marginalized women such as refugee and displaced persons, sexual minorities, religious or ethnic minorities, adolescent girls, and women and girls with disabilities and those who are HIV positive." The resolution, still sitting in committee, calls on the US to use gender-sensitive frameworks to address the problem and to include women in the design and implementation of policies on climate change and economic development.

"The frontlines of the climate crisis are low-income people, communities of color and indigenous communities here in the US and around the globe," Cindy Wiesner, Co-Director of The Climate Justice Alliance said in a press release. "We are the hardest hit by both climate disruption - the storms, floods and droughts - as well as by the extractive, polluting and wasteful industries causing global warming."

That sentiment was echoed at the march. Favianna Rodriguez, a feminist who works with CultureStrike, said climate change is an issue in which social inequality becomes obvious. She told TIME, "The destruction we're facing has been wrought under male leadership, and women and children are disproportionately affected. ... Addressing climate change is going to require a very strong shift in leadership, and require us to include the vision of women and youth."

Media Resources: 9/22/2014; TIME 9/21/2014; United Nations; Women's Environment and Development Organization

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