A group of about 40 people marched up and down M Street in Merced on Sunday on the eve of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris to raise awareness about environmental issues.
The U.N. climate summit formally opened Sunday afternoon with a minute of silence for the victims of this month’s Paris attacks and vows not to let terrorism derail efforts to slow or stop climate change.
A few miles away in Paris, police trying to secure the nation against new violence sprayed tear gas on protesters who defied a ban on demonstrations and lobbed projectiles. Millions of people around the world marched ahead of the conference in support of funding renewable energy projects and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. At the conference, government and business leaders will negotiate pledging billions of dollars to research and develop a technical fix to the planet’s climate woes.
The Merced march was organized by local residents as part of the Global Catholic Climate Movement and 350.org, but many who attended did so on their own because they were concerned about climate change. They came from as far away as Los Banos, Fresno, El Portal and Mariposa. Those in attendance shared their interest in solar power and their concerns over millions of dying trees in the Sierra Nevada; conserving water; and fracking operations.
Brooke Hanner and his wife, Karen, , traveled from Mariposa to join the march. They are specifically concerned about carbon emissions and supporting alternative fuels.
“We want to promote those ideas as much as possible,” Brooke Hanner said. “The clock is ticking, and people are the only ones who can make changes.”
As the group marched, people chanted phrases such as “Hey, hey, ho, ho, fossil fuels have got to go!” and “If you care, clean our air!” Many held banners and signs calling for “climate justice” and sustainability.
After the march, the group of attendees listened as speakers addressed climate change issues.
William Collier, an attorney versed in environmental issues, said U.S. politicians could do better in dealing with climate issues, though he complimented the work of Gov. Jerry Brown, saying California is ahead of most states in environmental policy.
“I encourage people, as individuals, to reduce your carbon footprint,” he said. “Climate change is going to affect us. I don’t think life is going to end, but it’s going to change. I can see the train coming. It’s getting closer and closer, and we’re still just talking about it.”
Sharon Hoffman, an event organizer, said she hopes the event planted a seed and that others in the community become active in supporting climate change projects. “It’s an imperative situation,” she said. “It’s time to wake up.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Brianna Vaccari: 209-385-2477