While most New Yorkers were just rolling out of their beds on Saturday morning, Timon McPhearson was already at work in the middle of a forest, marking holes in the ground with a can of spray paint. McPhearson, an ecology professor at The New School, was there to plant thousands of cedar, oak and walnut trees in experimental plots, as part of his long-term study to evaluate the environmental effects of a citywide reforestation program called MillionTreesNYC.
But on this rainy October day, McPhearson was enjoying an extra influx of twenty workers in addition to his usual volunteer crew coordinated by the Parks Department. The new recruits had signed up as part of the International Climate Day of Action, a daylong, worldwide series of coordinated marches, street performances, plant-ins and other creative forms of citizen action. In an effort to prod international governments to take meaningful action to address the global threat of climate change, McPhearson’s tree planters in the Bronx’s Pelham Bay Park were joined by tens of thousands of other eco-activists staging their own actions around the world, from schoolchildren parading through the streets of Ethiopia to climbers posing for photos on Antarctica’s tallest mountain.
The brainchild of author/environmentalist Bill McKibben and his organization 350, the Day of Action was a conceived as an effort to draw awareness to the need to bring the atmosphere’s CO
For McPhearson, affiliating his MillionTreesNYC project with the Day of Action was a no-brainer, as one aspect of his research is calculating how much carbon his newly planted trees absorb from the atmosphere. “It’s nice to tie into 350, because we’re all doing this for similar reasons,” he said. In order to have the work resonate with other events occurring around the globe, McPhearson decided to split up his 3,500 saplings into ten groups of 350.
At the day’s other hot spots around New York, there were fewer tree saplings and more signs and banners. The two largest local actions were a march across the Brooklyn Bridge organized by Greenpeace, in which participants raised awareness about global warming, and a rally in Times Square in the heart of Manhattan.
Jason Blunck, of Brooklyn, joined the bridge marchers because of an announcement he’d seen on the Democracy Now! TV show, which had been publicizing the day of action. Blunck drew inspiration from the thousands of actions taking place around the world–5,200 or more, according to the 350 website–which he hoped would pressure the average American to participate in the climate change movement. “Everybody around the world is reaching out to us, so we should reach back,” Blunck said.