On the night before the People’s Climate March, activists, scholars and civilians gathered at All Souls Unitarian Church in the Upper East Side in New York City to hear leading figures speaking about the environmental movement today and what strategies may work in the future.

The event was hosted by Brian Lehrer of WNYC radio with guests author and journalist Naomi Klein, journalist Chris Hedges, environmentalist Bill McKibben, and Seattle councilmember Kshama Sawant. Van Jones was originally set to appear after asking to join, but according to Linda Rousseau of The Peace and Justice Task Force, backed out due to his busy schedule.

With the church overfilled, hundreds of others outside were turned away. The program was live-streamed and later uploaded online for those who could not make it. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont opened speaking to the crowd for a few minutes about the environment, climate change, and what needs to be done now.

What the scientists tell us, most significantly, is if we do not get our act together, if we do not reverse global warming, then our situation will become worse and worse. The timeline is short. We have got to act now.

Noteworthy are the two activists who interrupted him with a banner protesting his vote supporting Israel against Palestine. Sanders did not acknowledge either of them continuing with his speech on the climate.

He elaborated on the importance of urgency and referred to potential storms like Hurricane Sandy and Irene as the future if nothing is done. He advocated for alternative energy to transform society and avoid the worst of climate change.

The obvious question then arises, if everyone knows [about the dangers of climate change] and these guys up here know more about it than I do, [then] why aren’t we [transforming our energy sector]? Well this I know a little bit about because I sit in the United States Senate.  Let me begin by telling you nothing passes Congress without the approval of oil companies, corporate America and Wall Street. Unless we address that issue, we’re not going to address [climate change].

Sanders continued, referring to a tiny group of people with power and money on their side and how important it was for not only the People’s Climate March, but also activism in general to challenge such power.

Bill McKibben followed Sanders making a reference to a possible presidential run for Sanders after his appearance in Iowa. McKibben spoke of the bad news in terms of climate change due to political inaction over the past few decades warning:

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan is a freelance journalist in Queens, NY and written for publications such as The Nation, In These Times, Truthout and more.