September 29, 2023

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of New York City to demand that President Joe Biden put an end to the use of fossil fuels in the United States, warning that there’s no future on a “dead planet.”

The March to End Fossil Fuels on Sunday was headlined by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who joined protesters’ calls to cease federal approval of new oil and gas projects, phase out fossil fuel drilling on public lands, and declare a federal climate emergency.

Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, garnered loud applause from the massive crowd when she referred to climate action as “an electoral and a popular force that cannot be ignored. This is the biggest issue of our time.”

NYC Climate March 2023
Thousands of activists, indigenous groups, students and others take to the streets of New York for the ‘March to End Fossil Fuels’ protest on September 17, 2023 in New York City. The rally and protest comes days before the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit brings world leaders to New York for the UN General Assembly.
Spencer Platt/Getty

The marchers’ demands have been endorsed by more than 500 organizations, 400 scientists, and numerous celebrities including Mark Ruffalo, Kevin Bacon and Jameela Jamil. It was unclear as of Sunday exactly how many people participated in the event but multiple media reports say “tens of thousands” of people joined the march and rally.

The New York protest is one of more than 600 events that are part of the Global Fight to End Fossil Fuels, according to the End Fossil Fuel’s website. More than 500,000 people participated in demonstrations demanding world leaders cease the use of fossil fuels, including actions in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and Antarctica, the website states.

In Focus

Actor Kevin Bacon joins thousands of activists, indigenous groups, students and others take to the streets of New York for the ‘March to End Fossil Fuels’ protest on September 17, 2023 in New York City.

Launch Slideshow 6 PHOTOS

Sunday’s march is just says before United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will host the Climate Ambition Summit in New York City. Guterres during Wednesday’s meeting will issue a new standard for nations to phase out fossil fuels and commit to no new oil, gas and coal. The White House said previously that Biden does not plan to attend.

Newsweek reached out via email on Sunday to Biden’s representatives for comment.

The march comes amid a summer marred by numerous extreme weather events that experts say were intensified by climate change, including record-breaking heat waves across the globe, the deadly wildfire in Maui and catastrophic flooding in Libya.

While speaking to marchers at the rally, Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist at NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Lab, painted a dire picture of humanity’s future and warned of mass extinction.

“I’ve got two kids in high school,” he said. “I am terrified for their future. I’m terrified for my own future. Things are burning and flooding. The smoke is getting worse. The heat waves are getting worse.”

Kalmus earned loud cheers from the crowd when he took aim at President Joe Biden.

“Every little bit of fossil fuel we burn makes the planet a little hotter and makes it all worse,” he told marchers. “We are so clearly in a f****** climate emergency. Why won’t President Biden declare it? I feel so gaslit that it’s insane.”

The NASA scientist said there is “no way out of this” and urged U.S. lawmakers to “turn the tide” away from fossil fuels.

“This is the only planet in the universe that we know that has life and we are on the brink of the sixth mass extinction,” Kalmus warned. “We are on the brink of losing absolutely everything. There’s no politics on a dead planet. There’s no economy on a dead planet. There is no democracy on a dead planet.”

Several protesters who spoke with Newsweek on Sunday said they also feared for the future of the planet and humanity.

Lisa Marshall, the advocacy and organizing director for New Yorkers for Clean Power (NYCP), said she wants to do her part to ensure the earth is still “habitable” for her children.

“I’m a mom of three,” she said. “I’m here on a beautiful day, not because I want to be but because my kids are counting on me to do everything I can to preserve the climate for them.”

Marshall joined the thousands of calls for Biden to phase out fossil fuels, saying Americans need “leadership to do their part.”

“I think the main goal for today is to express the urgency to President Biden to stop approving new fossil fuel extraction, it has to stop at the top,” she told Newsweek. “Individual actions are fine, but we can’t shop our way out of the climate crisis. We need to fulfill our commitments to the Paris Agreement. And we need to not approve any more fossil fuel extraction projects.”

Thomas Hirasun, a climate activist from Ithaca, told Newsweek that lawmakers need to act before it’s too late.

“The point of the march is the urgency of this,” he said. “We have to do something right now.”

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