Climate Conference of Santiago, Chile
THE POWER OF PEOPLE
"What do we want?!" "Climate justice!" "When do we want it?" "NOW!"
My voice cracks as I scream into a Sierra Club speaker, sweat collecting on my back. I’m at the largest climate march in history. Sipping on coffee (a rare occurrence if you know me) and reflecting on yesterday’s experience, I realize that people are my favorite species.
I am an eternal optimist. I believe that people can be trusted, confided in, and follow through with things. I believe that hope isn’t a veil for ignorance but a lens for revolution. This is not to say that people drive me crazy. Jerry Seinfeld’s, “People, they’re the worst” is often the only line I can come up with for various situations in my life. It angers me that people have confused luxuries with necessities, that the immediate always take precedence over the future, and that the out of sight sufferings of biomes, species, and people are neglected by many of us. I feel like crying when I go on a walk on Sunday mornings and see the red Solo cups that litter my campus. Individual apathy and global inaction makes me point the finger at humans and feel ashamed to be part of such a destructive group of beings. So why am I still an optimist? Because I go to things like the Climate March and realize that people are capable of incredible things.
At 11:30 a.m on Sunday, more than 300,000 protesters walked for four hours in New York City to protest political inaction on global warming. The lineup consisted of six categories starting with those directly impacted by climate change and ending with “everyone” (NYC Borough, LGBTW, international community). Hamilton College stood in the “Build the Future” line, which consisted of students, families, the elderly, and labor. Risa Nagel ’16, president of the Hamilton Environmental Action Group, made our involvement in the march possible. Mona Perrotti, Shirley Knop, and Katherine Collett were also instrumental in the transportation of Hamilton students to New York City. Despite a 4 am bus call and an hour and a half long delay at the start of the march, everyone was happy to be there. Hamiltonians put their pressing deadlines of essays and tests aside to attend the Woodstock of our times.
Sunday’s march made me like people again. Throughout the event I envisioned a slew of things going wrong. More than a quarter million people have been standing for an hour, waiting for the march to start. People are going to start leaving. People are going to start cursing and throwing their signs in anger. My sleep-deprived colleagues are going to scream at the band playing next to us. When my back started to ache and my stomach began to grumble I thought, “Surely the seventy-year old in front of me can’t go any further.” But she did. No one left the group. Everyone smiled in the knowledge that we were peacefully and powerfully united under a common cause.
After the march I ate my black bean burger and watched people splintering off into their respective groups. The one commonality I noticed was that all of them were talking. Everyone I saw was happy, understanding and willing to communicate. The quality I most admire about our species, our unique power for empathy, was fully realized. I know that this march will have long-term effects because the conversations had started. On the bus ride home I chatted with my friend about our differing opinions concerning conservation and pragmatic change versus a larger-scale lifestyle revolution and I realized that the march had accomplished what it set out to do. We disagreed on the specifics of getting there but we both agreed that people have the power to protect the organisms, ecosystems, and people we cherish.
So Lets Get Started.