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Newsday.com Q&A: Bill McKibben on what the People's Climate March showed

Participants in the People's Climate March walk south

Participants in the People's Climate March walk south on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Credit: CS Muncy

Bill McKibben, the author of "The End of Nature" and "Eaarth," helped organize the People's Climate March held Sunday in Manhattan. He spoke with Newsday.com via email.

Q: What did the People's Climate March accomplish?

MCKIBBEN: It showed that climate change is a top-of-the-agenda issue with a powerful movement behind it. This was not just the largest climate change rally in the planet's history (by a factor of 4), it was about the largest political gathering about anything in quite some time. Whenever people sense that they can actually make a difference they engage with this most daunting of issues.

Q: Where were you on the streets during the minute of noise to sound the alarm on climate change?

MCKIBBEN: Right at the corner of Central Park South and Sixth, watching the march turn the corner. What a feeling to hear the sound come sweeping from the west -- I really understood the term "sound wave" for the first time on a visceral level.

Q: One of the aspects of climate change that people may have trouble grasping is its gradual nature. Can you describe the damage that is being done to the planet every month, or every year?

MCKIBBEN: Every day the heat equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs is added to the atmosphere. This melts ice, evaporates water, drives winds. We see its effects in astonishing bouts of unlikely weather, from Sandy's soaking to the stupefying drought now blasting California, and in the invisible but all-important changes to the underlying workings of the planet. Just to give one example, we've made seawater 30 percent more acidic which is a big deal on an ocean planet.

Q: What is most frustrating about trying to effect change on this issue quickly enough so that we can avoid the worst effects of global warming?

MCKIBBEN: Watching political leaders willfully ignore clear warnings from the world's scientists, and clear solutions from the world's economists (like not allowing the fossil fuel industry to dump its waste into the atmosphere for free). And knowing that the reason is they fear the money power of the world's richest enterprises. It's sad to see this kind of destruction solely to maintain the profit margins of the oil majors and the coal barons for a few more years.

Q: What action do you think the world’s political leaders need to take on climate change in the next year?

MCKIBBEN: Not enough. But the harder we press them the more they'll do.

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