On Sept. 21, the environmental movement approached a turning point, as roughly 400,000 concerned global citizens marched through the streets of Manhattan. Timed to precede the United Nations Climate Summit, the People’s Climate March will go down in history as the largest climate demonstration to date, according to Politico. People of all walks of life raised their voices about climate change. Eager children seated on parents’ shoulders, resolute grandparents on motorized chairs, spirited students with stirring chants, and all those in between flooded the streets.
As one of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who took part in this movement, I can tell you firsthand that I had never experienced something quite like this. The march was truly awe-inspiring and peaceful, albeit far from passionless. Each participant was fully present, the majority bearing signs, costumes, or art expressing a poignant distress about our current environmental trajectory. Kathy Blachut, a fellow Eco-Rep who was part of the group of Rider students in attendance, described the day as having been “extraordinary to say the least.”
“One does not fully understand the impact they can potentially make until they are in the midst of greatness, of a whole group of people with the same mission in mind,” Blachut said. “To say the truth, it hadn’t hit me until an hour and a half after arriving at the finish line of the march, we started heading back to the train station only to find that people were still making their way to the end. Just then did I realize what 400,000 people was and the actual extent of the history we were making.”
The march not only aimed at demonstrating the severity and universality of concerns about climate justice, but also shared the narrative of how we plan to shift worldwide actions. Participants grouped themselves according to individual purpose within the greater issue. This lineup started with those at the front lines, already feeling the impacts in their local environments. Moving along the mass of marchers, groups included those with the dedication to change the future, those who have solutions awaiting adoption, and those who have lost patience with climate offenders. Rounding out the supporters were scientific groups with factual evidence, and diverse communities representing the indiscriminant nature of the changing climate.
Climate change is not an issue that can be solved overnight — not even with 400,000 people. But with the Environmental Protection Agency reporting that global temperatures have increased over 1.3° C over the last century, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change citing sea levels rising almost twice as fast as the previous century’s rates, and the New England Journal of Medicine saying that natural disasters are becoming three times as frequent in the past decade, these concerns are not to be ignored. Forging ahead in this movement, we must remember that the impacts of these changes are not modest or localized, but ones that will be felt on a planetary scale.
Concluding in the words of a chant that spread along the streets during the historical People’s Climate March, “Hey hey, ho ho, climate change has got to go.”
Printed in the 10/01/14 issue.