Dozens of HWS students joined the largest climate march in U.S. history on Sunday, Sept. 21, to promote a more sustainable environmental and economic future.
Drawing more than 300,000 activists, the People’s Climate March wound through Midtown Manhattan to advocate for a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; and a world with good jobs, clean air, clean water, and healthy communities.
Held in advance of the U.N. General Assembly’s summit on climate change later in the week — when world leaders and members of the private sector convened to discuss action against climate change — the unprecedented climate march in New York was mirrored in 2,700 other events in more than 150 countries.
The march “proved to be incredibly awe-inspiring,” says Stacey Davis ’15, who helped mobilize more than 30 student marchers, with logistical support from the Office of Sustainability, Student Activities, Student Government and the Office of Intercultural Affairs. “Based on the amount and diversity of activists at the march, it was evident that the event was going to set quite the precedent for our world leaders.”
With the New York march mirrored in events in the Philippines, Australia, London and other international locales, HWS Sustainability Manager Adam Maurer says there is a growing global recognition that moves this beyond the confines of a purely environmental movement.
“It’s important to recognize the diversity of the march,” he says. “It was a galvanized effort between people who have felt the effects of Super-storm Sandy, or of fracking in rural Pennsylvania, or the negative effects of the tar sands and the Keystone pipeline, and those who have not been personally effected. People are finally waking up and want action.”
Alexandra Cirra ’17, an environmental studies and public policy major and EcoRep on campus, says she was motivated to march to raise awareness that “future generations may not have clean air, water, or land. This affects so many people around the world and I feel responsible to help make the world better in anyway I can,” she says.
At 5 a.m. the day of the event, HWS attendees departed Geneva for New York, where they marched among activists, celebrities, and politicians, like Al Gore, Leonardo Di Caprio, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. They carried signs bearing slogans like “Cool It!”, “They Get Rich, We Get Cancer,” “Frack is Wack,” “Renewable Energy Now,” and “Windmills Not Weapons.”
Just before 1 p.m., a hush fell over the crowd as two minutes of silence were observed for the planet.
“The silence was peaceful and made me imagine all the possibilities that can happen just from this march,” says Cirra. “All of these different people are gathered in the same place with the same goal of a brighter future for our planet. It was inspiring to look in front and beyond me and see how many cared for the planet, our health, and the safety of future generations. It was amazing to be in the center of all of this. I want the politicians at the United Nations to know how many lives they can help by demanding safer regulations on carbon emissions, food justice, and banning hydrofracking near people’s homes.”
HWS participation in the People’s Climate March underscores the importance the Colleges place on environmental sustainability and programming that enables and encourages students play leading roles in addressing the complex environmental issues of the 21st century by linking classroom learning to real world application.
“Clearly, when united, people can make an incredible impact,” Davis says. “I hope to take some of this energy that was displayed by the HWS students at the march and use it to accomplish the President’s Climate Action Plan here on campus.”