Talk the talk, march the march, 400K strong | U.S. Green Building Council
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This is what democracy looks like.

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of joining the Urban Green Council and over 400,000 other concerned global citizens, including celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio, and leaders like UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in the People’s Climate March.

The aerial photos say it all! This was an unprecedented mass of people demanding better from our leaders for our people and planet. The diversity of this group makes it clear that climate change is negatively effecting all people (watch this inspiring poem played at the Opening Ceremony of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit).

Children held signs asking that we stop destroying the planet they will inherit. Student groups demanded policy actions like instituting a carbon tax. Marching groups of scientists underscored that 97% percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are likely due to human activities. The signs the Urban Green Council so handsomely crafted asserted that green buildings will help us “rise above the flood.”

The march was organized into different segments in the climate action movement, and USGBC proudly fit into the section called “We Have Solutions.” We do have solutions! Buildings account for a whopping 38% of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., but building green can substantially reduce these emissions while saving money on utility bills.

After advancing a few blocks with this group, I decided to explore the length of the march. There were bands and chants and witty puns on signs. There were bright banners and zany costumes and artistic representations of the wildlife at stake.

Greatest of all, there was an incredible energetic current running through the crowd in the shared purpose of “We the People.” We care deeply about climate action, and we vote. This march wasn’t only in the U.S., either. Exactly 2,808 solidarity events were held in 166 countries. That’s a lot of voters. What remains to be seen is if the people who make laws and policies will listen and do something impactful.

This week at the UN Climate Summit, President Obama said that by early next year his administration will outline goals to cut U.S. emissions beyond the 2020 goals, but will they be ambitious enough? Will other nations do enough in the potential global accord at the end of next year? Will members of Congress stop arrogantly challenging climate experts, misrepresenting “global wobbling” or “displacement theory”? Will Congress support measures like the Obama administration’s promising Clean Power Plan?

Left to right: Cecil Scheib, Chief Program Officer, Urban Green Council; Fleming Roberts, Policy & Advocacy Associate, USGBC; Susan Kaplan, President, BuildingWrx

After the march I had the pleasure of spending some more time with the hardworking Urban Green Council, attending a successful conference they put together called “Façade Face-off: NYC and Beyond.” I learned about Passive House and re-skinning and connected with an inspiring female green building leader who I can’t wait to get coffee with.

The green building movement is such a critical piece of the climate change solution, and I left NYC with a renewed sense of community and purpose. As I ran to catch my train back to D.C., the Empire State building, in all its LEED Gold glory, was lit up bright green for Climate Week.

Back to work.