On Friday, December 16, 2011, the Human Impacts Institute and theMobilizeUS! coalition held the event“People Unite for the Future We Want,”which brought people together from around New York City and the world at locations around the City including Dag Hammarskjold Plaza outside the UN headquarters, at Times Square, and at Zuccotti Park. Outside, the sky was clear and the sun was shining, and it was cold. Watch segments of the Dag Hammarskjold Rally here.
It was the closing day of the Second Intercessional Meeting of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, a key meeting in the lead-up Rio+20 next June. The event consisted of a series of public outreach and engagement activities aimed toward drawing attention to the issues at hand at the conference: environmental protection, poverty eradication, and the international sustainable development institutions. See the full lineup of speakers and performers here.
The main event was a rally in front of the UN building coordinated by the Human Impacts Institute, which featured speakers from youth movements and organizations from around the world. Nicolò Wojewoda from Peace Child International and Road to Rio+20encouraged the youth in attendance that the work they do can be part of the world we build, and of our future. He described how he’s seen and worked with thousands of young people from around the world who make things happen. Michael Davidson from the Natural Resources Defense Council, reminded us that “the world is too big to fail,” that we need a “global conversation on sustainability,” and that billions will be watching what leaders do at Rio+20 next year. Marie-Pierre Daigle from WeCanada spoke to some hopes for the conference, including need to being incorporating environmental and social variables in how we measure our well-being as a civilization and a planet as a replacement of GDP. Watch segments of the Dag Hammarskjold Rally here.
As Human Impacts Institute’s Executive Director, Tara DePorte, emceed the event, she rallied calls from the crowd asking for personal commitments to sustainability, with “What Do We Want?” and “What are you committed to doing?” Participants called for clean energy, and end on dirty fuel subsidies, green jobs, accountability and transparency. When asked how they were committed to helping achieve these asks, the crowd responded with calls of increasing their outreach, using less, riding bikes, and writing our elected officials.
Other youth leaders from countries as far as China and Cameroon inspired the crowds with stories from their communities and about how to make sustainability “cool,” and to the role the Occupy movement is taking in emboldening the voice of the people. Attendees numbered near a hundred, and represented a diversity of age groups and occupations, including UN delegates, journalists, students, and more.
As youth leaders from around the world spoke, New Yorkers of all ages rallied for climate justice, green jobs, better education in our schools, and more. Over twenty high school students from Lyons School in Brooklyn came ready with banners and posters of their messages to our leaders. Performers from the Bronx-based, activist hip-hop group Rebel Diaz performed for participants in front of the U.N., calling for social awareness on issues of consumption, education, prison and much more with lyrics like, “I got a fresh pair of Nikes, make me feel nice, like I’m worth more according to what I buy” and “if you aint sharing abundance, then you aint about nothin’”. Connecting with youth and, as they put it, “using hip-hop culture as their weapon”, Rebel Diaz inspired participants with their creativity and call for individual, governmental and corporate accountability. Watch segments of the Dag Hammarskjold Rally here.
The group then marched to Times Square, and there called the attention of onlookers to the dissonance between our consumer culture of which the Square is emblematic, and the sustainable path an equitable and abundant future requires us to tread.
This was followed later by a gathering at Zuccotti Park, long the home and birthplace of the #Occupy movement, and The Atrium nearby, concluding in a teach-in featuring speakers from the City’s environmental organizations, including Wendy Brawer, Founder and Director of Green Map Systems, Ken Gale, host of the Eco-Logic radio show WBAI, and Dan Miner, founder of Beyond Oil NYC. Watch what some participants have to say about Rio+20 and the Occupy Movement connection here!
These public events, through speeches, dissemination of pamphlets, and signature gathering, brought Rio+20 and the issues it represents to the attention of many people for the first time. Over the next six months, MobilizeUS! will be organizing similar events as Rio+20 draws near and its campaign for leadership and strong action there intensifies.
By Alex White, Human Impacts Institute Director of Outreach and Advocacy