After a six-hour car ride on a cramped yellow school bus Sunday, Colleen Corrigan and 44 other Plattsburgh State students finally arrived to New York City.
They left their beds at 4 a.m. for one reason: to attend the People’s Climate March, the largest climate march in history. With more than 400,000 people coming to a city of already 8 million, things grew chaotic for the students. Not knowing where to go, Corrigan, president of the PSUC Environmental Action Committee (EAC), and her colleague Adrian Arrivillaga decided everyone should hop out of the bus at a stoplight a few blocks from the march.
“We got off at the stoplight and pretty much made it. As it was turning green, the last people got off,” Corrigan said.
Once there, the PSUC students, whose majors varied from environmental science to psychology, entered the madness.
Groups of all colors, places and origins attended the march. Youth immigrants could be seen marching with signs that read, “Tenemos la solucion” — “We have the solution.” Surrounded by the sounds of a drum, New York state nurses sang, “This is what democracy looks like! Climate justice, climate justice!” Parents held their children’s hands as they called for a cleaner future where their children can breathe clean air.
The point of all this? Action.
“Instead of sitting back and complaining and wishing that we would change the way we treat the environment, we’re actually going out and doing something about it,” Corrigan said.
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The march was planned two days before the United Nations Climate Summit this past Tuesday, where world leaders came together to discuss climate change solutions.
President Barack Obama answered marchers’ calls. “Our citizens keep marching,” he said at the summit. “We cannot pretend we do not hear them.”
The Campus Committee for Environmental Responsibility (CCER) made it possible for PSUC students to be a part of history.
Through a Green Grant of $1,951.68 to the EAC, students paid only $5 for a round-trip ticket to New York City. On a Greyhound bus, students would’ve paid at least $100.
“We’re trying to encourage people to be more active,” said Aaron Baltich-Schecter, the student co-chair of the CCER who also attended the march. “Mostly we see the grants with buying environmentally-friendly things, but we don’t see too many grants on environmental action, so we definitely thought we’d support something like that.”
PSUC students weren’t the only college students taking action, either. The People’s Climate website estimated 50,000 college students attended the march. Emily Teague, a student who travelled from Chico, California, was one of these 50,000.
By saving money from her job at a local food cooperative and partial funding from the California Student Sustainability Coalition, a non-profit organization that connects students from across California for sustainability, Teague was able to make the 3,000-mile trip. She took advantage of her time in the city by attending Flood Wall Street the following day, a form of civil disobedience where thousands gathered to sit in at the New York Stock Exchange.
“It was my first time being involved in direct action,” Teague said. “It was really amazing feeling empowered. I think it would be important for more students to feel that.”
PSUC students had to head back north in time for classes, so none attended the Flood Wall Street event. But they marched behind unions in the second group of the march, titled “We Can Build The Future.” This contingent was dedicated to labor, families, students, elders and more. “Every generation’s future is at stake. We can build a better future,” the website reads in regards to this group.
Other contingents included frontline communities, indigenous people, scientists and interfaith groups. And while all types of people walked down New York City streets, millennials were abundant. Millennials, a generation which includes college students, are integral to this movement, Teague said.
“We’re the generation that’s about to become leaders in the world. It’s important for us to show this matters to the world.”
“We have the most to gain and the most to lose,” he said. “We’re going to live on this planet for hopefully the next 60 to 70 years, and our children will live here the generation after that, and we have the most power to change things.”
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