In a defining moment in the history of the movement against human caused climate change, 400,000 people made their presence known at the People’s Climate March on Sunday in New York City. The diverse group of protesters marched to demand action from global leaders attending the upcoming Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters. The turnout was remarkable; a conservative estimate expected 100,000, and the exceeding of that expectation meant the march lasted more than 6 hours.
The People’s Climate March owes much of its success, in my opinion, to its diversity of recognition. Marchers in the first wave represented the marginalized groups who have already been affected by climate change, including the I-Kiribati (demonym for people native to the island nation Kiribati), who stand to lose their homes to sea-level rise. They were followed by those who have a stake in the future of the stability of global temperatures, families, students, labor movements, and elders. Filling out the herd were environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, Anti-Corporate Campaigns, Scientists, faith leaders, and community groups.
On Sunday, I heard from the fellow students also working on divestment campaigns, efforts to convince boards of trustees/governors of universities and colleges to remove investments in fossil fuels from endowments and reinvest those funds in clean energy firms. While it was important to network with them and find out what strategies were working well on their campuses, the most valuable experience was simply encountering those from drastically different walks of life.
One marcher behind me proudly displayed an engaging message “Moms clean air force: fighting for our kids’ health”
I’m not marching for the same reason this woman was. She walked the two miles to voice her concerns for the threat to the health of her children. Another protester marched to raise awareness for racial injustice that comes along with pollution and its disproportionate effect on historically oppressed ethnicities. Her sign read “Climate Justice Is Racial Justice”. I will likely never experience either of their situations, being a Caucasian male who seriously doubts he desires to raise a child.
But I did march with them. All three of us are concerned about the same thing that is affecting our lives in different ways, environmental problems and their relationship to human caused climate change.
High profile, high well covered events such as the climate march are the big splash in the pond of societal and economic shift. But that pond’s ripples, the mother’s success in convincing her town to enhance its emissions standards, or the young lady’s victory over a municipality that wanted to put a trash dump next to her neighborhood, or the University of North Carolina’s Sierra Student Coalition, of which I am a member, showing the Board of Governors divesting from coal companies is in our collective best interest, those are the victories that matter.
Sunday was merely the agitation of a body of water containing nearly half a million drops.