December 2, 2015

Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity

One week before coming to Paris, we were in Oakland, waving our “Ban Fracking Now” banners in a bright sea of signs and marching among energized Californians fervently urging Gov. Jerry Brown and other leaders to take real action to fight climate change.

A week later, we were in Paris, attending what had been anticipated to be the largest climate march in history. Some 600,000 people were expected to participate. But because of the tragic November 13 terrorist attack, the French government forbade the march and public demonstrations generally.

Following the attacks, a Parisian told me, the French people defied that rule, especially in areas of memoriam around the city.

And that same Parisian tenacity and spirit came out for the climate.

Seven thousand people, including California Against Fracking members in Paris, took to the streets on November 29 to form a human chain lining the entire path of the original march that ran through the city’s center.

What was remarkable—and deeply moving—was that the path of the human chain passed through the memorial sites. In the Place du Republique, the heart of Paris, lit candles and thousands of flowers forming the largest memorial sat next to thousands of empty shoes representing those who would have marched. Hand-written signs honoring victims stood next to anti-fracking banners and “change the system—not the climate” flags. And Parisians danced with fellow climate protesters from around the world in a sign of joyful rebellion through the streets.

What the march-turned-human-chain symbolized was a very human spirit—that even after tragedy, there is fire, tenacity and hope for a better future. And that’s how the 2015 Paris climate change negotiations began.

See all the pictures from Paris here.