September 22, 2014

Now It's 400,000 Climate Marchers? Puh-leeze...

Okay, I'm going to keep this short.

I thought I was done with the topic last night when I posted a piece here pegging the crowd in yesterday's nifty People's Climate March at over 100,000, a very impressive turnout, and explaining how that figure was arrived at. Toward the end, I criticized an estimate attributed to March organizers of 310,000.

I woke up to discover my blogpost had generated a certain amount of interest and a bunch of Facebook comments They were even mainly favorable.

I also found that the organizers had jacked their "official" count up to 400,000. I thought, that’s just silly. Maybe they're counting all the folks who took part in demos around the world, like this one in Tromsø, Norway that my friend Jon-arne sent me shots of.

Nope, according to the NY Times. "Organizers, using data provided by 35 crowd spotters and analyzed by a mathematician from Carnegie Mellon University, estimated that 311,000 people marched the route." So far, no indication of whether the unnamed numbers cruncher also bumped her figures up by 89,000 overnight.

400,000 "marched the route"? A convenient number, on account of the March took just a hair over 4 hours to pass our vantage point on 53rd and 6th. So call it 100,000 people an hour. That works out to--lessee, strike the last zeroes—1,666 people passing a given point every single minute that the March lasted. This simply did not happen. If you weren't there, look at the photos on the front cover of today's Times or browse around on Flickr. That kind of density isn't there, even if all the people had been sprinting. Which they weren't.

So what? It feels good to see Fox News saying 400,000 marched, right? (Of course I don't believe what they say about anything else, but still...) Where's the downside of inflating crowd figures, some friends ask. For a more rounded argument about this, check my blogpost from last year, "Let's Stop Inflating Crowd Counts, Eh?"

In practical terms, I'm inclined to think the blowback comes almost immediately. We want to take the momentum, the high spirits and determination of the People's Climate March and convert it into continued action. Of course only a certain percentage of those who marched will go home and plan local protests or build groups or  promote petitions or lobby Congresscritters or register green voters or sabotage pipelines anyhow. But it's not hard to predict with a high degree of precision how many of the 275,000 phantom marchers will be galvanized into action. That is bound to dishearten not only the people who make up the base of the movement, but even those organizers and leaders who go for the okey-doke. 

 It's Amilcar Cabral time again: 
Tell no lies. Claim no easy victories.

Read more!

September 21, 2014

Once More on Counting Crowds at Demos

[UPDATE: This caused some controversy when it was first posted, so I wrote a shorter--and crankier--follow-up piece a day later, which has a few additional thoughts.]

What a splendid march!

Props first of all to the 100,000 plus people who came to NYC from around the US (hello, South Dakota Quakers!) and around the world to stand up against the carbon-burning—and not coincidentally, capitalist--economy that is destroying the habitability of the planet for an awful lot of the present biosphere, including humans. You tended a tad toward the white end of the spectrum to be sure and were perhaps a bit naive, but you were young, you were jazzed and you were mighty imaginative in your posters and costumes and slogans.

Props too to the organizers who turned out all these folks on a very tight time-line, who made excellent use of the Internet and social media to build the protest, and who organized a very smoothly run march.

But let's face facts, nobody is much interested my review of the People's Climate March. What you want to know from me is how many people were there. I will give you two answers:

1. There were well over 100,000 people, likely a bit upwards of 120,000 in the march.

2. No way in hell were there 310,000 people on that march.

Read more!