By Brianna Dinan
Yesterday, sold-out buses full of Philadelphia college students and others rolled into NYC to participate in the People’s Climate March, the largest climate change demonstration in U.S. history.
Over 60 students from Temple University alone joined their fellow students in the youth and student section of the march, which stretched 10 city blocks long, or an estimated 50,000 students.
Sean Lawrence, a junior at Temple University said he attended the march because he sees it as our last chance to save the planet and was shocked by the number of people that seemed to agree.
“I can’t believe how many people came, it’s amazing,” Lawrence told The Declaration. “I went to the march in DC for the same sex marriage case and this is so much bigger, I just can’t believe it.”
Philadelphia Contributes Large Coalition
An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 flooded the streets of NYC with posters, banners, art pieces, and chants. The marchers were divided into numerous sections to differentiate activist groups: moms with their children, minority groups, elders like the “Raging Nannies”, and college students from around the country.
According to the event’s official website, over 65 groups from Philadelphia alone also made the trip to New York City, including Jobs with Justice, Juntos, Food and Water Watch, and Earth Quaker Action Team. Philadelphia City Council endorsed the broad Philadelphia coalition’s trip to New York.
Leading the massive march, however, was a large contingent of indigenous peoples and other “front line” groups (those who bear the greatest brunt of climate change’s effects), including members of native movement Idle No More, a group on the forefront of organizing against hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
“This is a native-faced movement,” Tom Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, told The Declaration.
“The people have to wake up,” he added. “The dominionist mentality over Mother Earth has to change.”
The student section was especially vibrant with posters and chants like, “Our future, our choice!”, “System change not climate change” and “Show me what democracy looks like. THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!”
Michael Kovich, a senior at Temple, said it was incomprehensible seeing the number of people from all walks of life and all different backgrounds coming together for a common cause.
“This is our future, this is the future of our planet and all the life that’s on it,” Kovich said. “So much is at stake here, so there’s no place else I’d rather be today.”
According to one of the march’s organizers, Bill McKibben, the People’s Climate March was “the largest political gathering about anything in the US in a very, very long time.”
In fact, it was the largest of several protests held around the world in response to the United Nation’s Climate Summit taking place this Tuesday.
Maddie Coach, a sophomore at Temple, said it is especially important to have the march in a city like New York because it’s a place where people are directly affected by climate change with natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy.
“Kermit the frog was wrong, it is easy being green,” she said. “I think we need a complete system change because if we don’t take steps today, we’ll have no tomorrow and that’s why I’m here today.”
George Bryant, a sophomore at Temple, said he had mixed feelings about the march because he loved the turnout but wonders if and how people will continue the momentum after the march is over.
“Time is running out, so I think the next step is living more sustainably and getting local initiatives passed. Everything people were marching for like electing green politicians, transitioning to renewables, divesting funds, taxing carbon–we need to put them into action immediately.”
Bryant said he believes the march is a great starting point, but a lot more needs to be done in places outside of NYC in order to see real results people were marching for. Recycling as much as you can, taking public transit, joining a community garden, riding your bike, and buying local organic foods are just a few actions that can be taken to help build a more sustainable future in cities like New York City and Philadelphia.
“There are a lot of things that can be done to protect our future and live more sustainably,” Bryant said. “But the real changes start locally and they start with us.”
Dustin Slaughter contributed to this report.