The other side of King's: Students identify with widespread climate concerns


New York, NEW YORK – Volunteers began gathering around Columbus Circle as early as 7 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21 for the widely anticipated People’s Climate March, which began at 11:30 a.m. Preparation for the historic event, the largest march of its kind, began nearly six months in advance with ongoing negotiations with the NYPD over the march route and other details. Over 1,500 groups and organizations were present, ranging from labor groups to religious groups to universities and colleges. Estimates at a total number of participants range from 310,000 to nearly 400,000 in New York City alone. More than 2,800 other related events occurred in over 160 countries worldwide.

Steve Sherman, a March coordinator, said that the event was so well attended because it signified “the beginning of being brought together, a culmination of all progressive movements."

Sherman led training efforts for March volunteers in the roles of “Peacekeeper” and “Security Marshall.” During the two-hour long sessions, which took place in Brooklyn every night during the week leading up to the march, he coached attendees in practices of nonviolence.

“We need to accept and embrace all--no judging. Everyone’s opinion, however much you might disagree with it, is valid," Sherman said.

On Sunday at 11 a.m., the mass of marchers lined up at Central Park West between 96th Street and Columbus Circle. The march consisted of six groups (a small number so that different messages would not be lost within the crowd, march coordinators explained).

The six groups included “Frontlines Of Crisis, Forefront Of Change,” “We Can Build The Future,” “We Have Solutions,” “We Know Who Is Responsible,” “The Debate Is Over” and “To Change Everything, We Need Everyone.” And indeed, it seemed like change was inevitable because everybody had come.

Notable march march attendees included UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio former Vice President Al Gore and Jane Goodall; Also present at the march were celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Sting, as well as many other New York City and State Representatives.

Though the goal of those involved in the march was to raise awareness for the climate crisis by demanding “Action, Not Words” in anticipation of the UN Climate Summit in New York that took place on Tuesday, Sept. 23, individuals' reasons for participating differed greatly.

“I want hope for my grandchildren’s lives,” said one self-proclaimed "eco-feminist" volunteer for the march.

Another volunteer, a New Zealand native, said that the “Pacific nations are an important part of [her] country,” and that they are slowly disappearing due to rising sea levels.

“We have one earth, one shot at doing this right, and right now we’re messing it up,” Vermont college student, Shavonna Bent said. “There have been a lot of empty words about what politicians plan to do over climate change yet no real action has come about yet. This march was about showing the world that people are ready to take action until something is done--this is an issue that matters to all of us.”

Several King’s students attended the People’s Climate March as well.

Preston Thatcher ('18) of the House of Reagan said that he attended the march because “whether you agree [about] global warming or not, there is a definite need for environmental protection.”

Thatcher referred to topical issues like giant trash dumps and ocean acidity, which is destroying coral reefs. Thatcher said that “pollution and its effects should not be a dispute...this isn’t a partisan issue, nor should it be made into one.”

Thatcher explained that "seeing, smelling and feeling" New York City pollution first hand was enough to provoke him to partake in "green promoting activities."

Thiery “Reign” Sparks ('15) of the House of Churchill shared his reasons for attending:

“The state of the environment is important to everyone--we live here," Sparks said. "We have a responsibility and a vested interest in protecting the habitats and species that climate change threatens.”

Sparks, however, departs from the anti-capitalist sentiment that many of his marchers expressed. He believes that the solution is not to tear things down, but to learn to be financially and environmentally responsible.

For the record, protesters left Central Park West completely trashed when they picked up their signs (and polar bear costumes) to head to the Fi-Di.