NEW YORK -- Yelling that the future and their lives depend on ending fossil fuels, tens of thousands of protesters on Sunday kicked off a week where leaders will try once again to curb climate change primarily caused by coal, oil and natural gas.
But protesters say it's not going to be enough. They aimed their wrath directly at U.S. President Joe Biden, urging him to stop approving new oil and gas projects, phase out current ones and declare a climate emergency with larger executive powers.
"We hold the power of the people, the power you need to win this election," said 17-year-old Emma Buretta of Brooklyn of the youth protest group Fridays for Future. "If you want to win in 2024, if you do not want the blood of my generation to be on your hands, end fossil fuels."
The March to End Fossil Fuels featured U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and actors Susan Sarandon, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon. But the real action on Broadway was where protesters crowded the street, pleading for a better but not-so-hot future. It was the opening salvo to New York's Climate Week, where world leaders in business, politics and the arts gather to try to save the planet, highlighted by a new special United Nations summit Wednesday.
Many of the leaders of countries that cause the most heat-trapping carbon pollution will not be in attendance. And they won't speak at the summit organized by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a way that only countries that promise new concrete action are invited to speak.
Organizers estimated 75,000 people marched Sunday.
"We have people all across the world in the streets, showing up, demanding a cessation of what is killing us," Ocasio-Cortez told a cheering crowd. "We have to send a message that some of us are going to be living on, on this planet 30, 40, 50 years from now. And we will not take no for an answer."
This protest was far more focused on fossil fuels and the industry than previous marches. Sunday's rally attracted a large chunk, 15%, of first-time protesters and was overwhelmingly female, said American University sociologist Dana Fisher, who studies environmental movements and was surveying march participants.
Of the people Fisher talked to, 86% had experienced extreme heat recently, 21% floods and 18% severe drought, she said. They mostly reported feeling sad and angry. Earth has just gone through the hottest summer on record.
Among the marchers was 8-year-old Athena Wilson from Boca Raton, Florida. She and her mother Maleah, flew from Florida for Sunday's protest.
"Because we care about our planet," Athena said. "I really want the Earth to feel better."
People in the South, especially where the oil industry is, and the global south, "have not felt heard," said 23-year-old Alexandria Gordon, originally from Houston. "It is frustrating."
Protest organizers emphasized how let down they felt that Biden, who many of them supported in 2020, has overseen increased drilling for oil and fossil fuels.
"President Biden, our lives depend on your actions today," said Louisiana environmental activist Sharon Lavigne. "If you don't stop fossil fuels our blood is on your hands."
Nearly one-third of the world's planned drilling for oil and gas between now and 2050 is by U.S. interests, environmental activists calculate.
Marchers and speakers spoke of increasing urgency and fear of the future. The actress known as V, formerly Eve Ensler, premiered the anthem "Panic" from her new climate change oriented musical scheduled for next year. The chorus goes: "We want you to panic. We want you to act. You stole our future and we want it back."