Breach the Beach
Security risks cancelled this Sunday’s Global Climate March in Paris, but activists move forward in Santa Monica
By Bliss Bowen
As coral reefs succumb to mass “bleaching,” Arctic polar bears drown in search of melting ice floes, desertification expands in Africa, hurricanes and tornadoes grow in ferocity and California girds for the largest El Niño on record, world leaders are preparing for a historic climate summit to — finally, hopefully — hash out exactly how nations can halt the catastrophic effects of climate change.
The United Nations Conference on Climate Change is scheduled to take place in Le Bourget, France, from Nov. 30 through Dec. 11, and stakes couldn’t be higher.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has determined that global warming of more than 2°C would increase “extreme climate events”; other, less diplomatic entities assert that such temperature elevations would push the planet past the tipping point of no return.
A Global Climate March is planned for Sunday in upwards of 150 countries, with people here and around the world calling for “climate justice.”
The event has been organized primarily by activist network and “campaigning community” Avaaz, though many other groups are involved too. The main march was scheduled to occur in Paris, and it was expected to draw up to 200,000 people. But while talks will proceed in Le Bourget on Nov. 30, the Paris march has been cancelled, a casualty of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in the city.
“Now it’s even more important for people everywhere to march on the weekend of 29 November on behalf of those who can’t,” Avaaz Deputy Director Emma Ruby-Sachs says in a prepared statement, “and show that we are more determined than ever to meet the challenges facing humanity with hope, not fear.”
Per Avaaz, more than 1,500 climate marches have been confirmed globally, including a gathering in Santa Monica.
A Breach the Beach Environmental Protest March will start at 2 p.m. Sunday at the base of Santa Monica Pier. At press time, organizer Russell Awni was expecting close to 350 people. Walkers, bikers and roller bladers are all welcome.
“We’re putting together some signs,” he says, “and we’re trying to put a petition together too to take action in the local area for pollution and the beach especially.”
Awni, who runs AMG Advertising in Los Angeles and describes himself as a “part-time beach bum and peace/environmental activist,” lived in Santa Monica and Venice for many years before recently relocating to the San Fernando Valley. He still plays volleyball in Santa Monica five days a week when he can. He speaks with conviction about global environmental threats like ozone depletion, but his focus is local.
“Santa Monica seems super nice and clean but it really isn’t, especially by the pier,” Awni says. “I don’t think we can look at things pragmatically [anymore], with our environment impacting oceans here and abroad. For me, I know I can take more action locally, but my message is more about the whole ignoring of the climate disaster we’re creating with our pollution and our greenhouse gases and all the things that can be corrected.”
Rallies and family-friendly walks demonstrating public will are planned across the country Sunday. In Somers Point, New Jersey, a Native American healing ceremony will be accompanied by remarks from faith leaders; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, will host a silent walking meditation. Milwaukee marchers plan to protest their regional utility’s taxation of customers who use solar electric panels; Brooklyn will see a “Paris solidarity march” near an Exxon station where protesters can say “no thanks” to Big Oil.
After the Global Climate March, American environmentalist Bill McKibben’s 350.org will deliver a petition to world leaders demanding a climate deal “in line with the imperatives of science” that keeps 80% of fossil fuels in the ground and finances a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
The bajillion-dollar question, of course, is whether — and when — governments will actually change policies.
“Our focus, especially in the United States, is scattered amongst tabloid journalism at best, and we really aren’t getting anybody to focus on the most important thing that could impact our environment that we’ve destroyed over the past 40 years,” Awni says. “I’d like to redirect focus back to that. I have a 23-year-old daughter. She’ll have children one day, I imagine, and what we’ve done to the environment is appalling. It’s time to clean it up. Or at least, instead of spending time on Black Friday buying cheap Chinese [goods] made with no environmental standards, we should be standing in line for things like protesting what’s happened to our environment. …
“It’s like that Martin Luther King Jr. statement: We’ll repent one day not for the bad acts of bad people but for the appalling silence of good people. So I don’t want to be silent.”
The Breach the Beach Environmental Protest March starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29, at the base of Santa Monica Pier near Hot Dog on a Stick, 1633 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, and will head to Venice before returning to the pier. To register, visit globalclimatemarch.org/en/ and type in “Santa Monica, CA” then click “Find an Event Near You.”
For more information about the UN Conference on Climate Change, visit cop21.gouv.fr/en.