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Is the People's Climate March in New York City on September 21 a waste of time? Even hardcore environmentalists are questioning the political efficacy of major street demonstrations to produce significant legislative action. Judging by the anti-war rallies leading up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, it is clear that governments can ignore massive protests without batting an eye.
So why march? My answer is based more on the evidence of social history than on a hopeful dream for our future. Major acts of civil resistance have always played a dramatic role in shaping the destiny of moral progress.
Gandhi's Salt March began as a meager 70-person hike down the Indian coastline. By the time he had reached the Dandi beach 240 miles and 24 days later, there were more than 50,000 people gathered together to resist the unjust salt tax. It was this event that shook the British Empire and began the process of granting freedom and democracy to 350 million people.
The 1963 Children's March in Birmingham is another example. In spite of fierce opposition from the local and state authorities, thousands of African- American young people took to the streets and demanded to be treated with dignity and fairness. It was this march that changed Kennedy's mind about the South and altered the course of American civil liberty forever.
And most recently we can turn to the march on the Brooklyn Bridge in 2011, when 700 demonstrators were arrested for trying to awaken the conscience of a nation. This event helped fortify the encampment on Wall Street and propelled a movement that is still changing the global conversation about economic disparity and social justice.
Like the Salt March, the People's Climate March can help to begin the dismantling of corporate monopolization over our planet's resources. Like the Children's March, it has the potential to galvanize people from all over the world to fight for human dignity. And by defending our right to clean air, water, and food, it has the power to build a climate-justice movement every bit as urgent and far- reaching as Occupy.
Marches of this caliber have transformed the course of history before. Why not again?
Payne is the founder and director of the Rochester-based Gandhi Earth Keepers International.
How I spent the summer:
• Delivering recycling option information to the Little Theatres and Hart's Local Grocers.
• Speaking before Rochester City Council about the lack of can and bottle recycling, again, at the Jazz Festival.
Corresponding with the Town of Irondequoit about the lack of can and bottle recycling, again, at the town's July 4 event.
After a wait of 15 years, meeting with two officials of the West Irondequoit School District about the need to overhaul recycling and refuse collection at all District buildings – this as a prudent way to save money.
Speaking before the Monroe County Legislature about the county's ongoing failure to promote both the Western New York Materials Exchange as well as "ecopark."
All of this adds up to one thing: Kermit the Frog was right. It's not easy being green – especially in Monroe County.
Goldblatt is a member of the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling.
People who are complaining about a higher wage for fast food employees would do well to remember that these jobs are no longer held primarily by high school kids earning spending money, but increasingly by people trying to survive, pay bills, and raise children.
That's the reality of the economy we live in right now, and one can't always just run out, try harder, and get another job.
On top of that, taxpayers are subsidizing the fast food industry to pay their workers low wages in the form of food stamps, medical insurance, and other benefits. You pay for McDonalds' greed. It's really that simple.
Instead of telling fast food workers to work harder at life, or defending wealthy franchisees that need no defense, perhaps you should join these brave workers on the picket line next time. And there will be a next time.
To raise the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 an hour is absolutely idiotic. If the fast food workers want to earn more money, they should get another job. Or work two jobs. There are plenty of trained skilled workers making $12-$13 an hour. You don't here them crying in their soup.
"Remember: (1) Most fast-food workers are adults who are major breadwinners for their families; (2) had the minimum wage fifty years ago merely kept up with inflation it would be over $15 today; (3) when these giant corporations don't pay living wages the rest of us pay Medicaid and food stamps to help these families stay out of poverty; (4) a $15 living wage puts more money into the pockets of people who will spend it, thereby creating more jobs, not fewer; (5) McDonalds, Burger King, and the rest are hugely profitable, paying their CEOs over 1,000 times what they pay their front-line workers. It's time America's fast-food workers got a raise." – Robert Reich
JOAN COLLINS LAMBERT
So if the minimum wage goes up, requiring not only soulless corporations but struggling mom-and-pop businesses to pony up, then skilled worker wages rise commensurately, then retail prices skyrocket so businesses can afford to pay their employees.... Aren't we right back where we started? What am I missing here?
The reason these jobs pay so little has to do with the lack of skills required to perform the work. Food comes frozen or bagged and prepped; all that is required is cutting open these bags and learning how to use a microwave properly. Many corporate, streamlined places of business have preparation guides in multiple languages with pictures included, so that even the most illiterate employee may function in these highly organized environments.
Officially, I "live below the poverty line" myself. I manage to survive, however, by a number of important lifestyle guidelines.
I too feel scant hope for the hundreds of little children starting kindergarten and first grade ("'Fix' the Schools? Maybe We're Not Up To the Job," Urban Journal). I see their excitement and hope, but I do not see that they will get the proper education and the chance at life that is their birthright.
I fully expect that the cycle of poverty will continue, and the conditions that brought about the rebellion of 1964 will have only more hopeless people who lash out in anger and desperation. This is what happens when dreams are deferred.
I agree that Rochesterians must put muscle behind their commitment to stand by these children. What if all of Rochester conducted a massive show of support by stopping everything in order to shout out: "We will not allow our children to be cheated!" Rochester would get on the evening news and say that our school problem is national in scope.
American urban schools need a Marshall Plan to begin to address the cycle of poverty. Rochester might start a chain reaction. Other cities would take their own moral stand. Rochester would redeem itself for not standing up for those who were left out of the financial boom of the post World War II years.
No city is able to address this systemic problem. This failure to serve our children has gone on way too long. Our children need so much. We Rochesterians need to take a moral stand.