Student describes her experience at past weekend’s climate march

Kendall McGowan, Managing News Editor

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Sagamore editor Kendall McGowan was one of more than a dozen students who took part in Sunday’s People’s Climate March in Manhattan. More than 300,000 people participated in the march, which was held prior to this week’s UN Climate Summit. McGowan detailed her experience.

Marchers walked from Columbus Circle to Times Square.

Marchers walked from Columbus Circle to Times Square.


 

A couple weeks ago, my dad asked me if I wanted to go to New York City for a day. I love New York so it would have been an easy yes, but he spiced it up by saying that we could attend what would likely be the largest climate march in history. I was sold.

The sun had yet to rise on Sunday, the day of the march, when I arrived at the front of the high school shortly before 6 a.m. with my parents and brother. It seemed that we would be in Manhattan in no time given what an early start we’d gotten, but I remember being sleepily aware of the fact that our bus had pulled off to the side of the highway and was making multiple sputtery attempts to restart its engine. We got there at noon, half an hour after the march was due to start.

Another factor which dampened everyone’s spirits was the rain, which had begun to fall not long after we left Boston. It seemed a bad omen for the day at first, but eventually let up and ceded the sky to a large rainbow- almost like the environment was smiling at us for dedicating some time to it, one woman noted.

Much like the weather, our tardiness problem seemed to fix itself, as there was such an unexpectedly large amount of marchers that the back of the procession, where we were, by 87th Street on Central Park West, didn’t start consistently moving until two hours into the event.

We stood impatiently, shifting with the other tens of thousands of people stuck at the back for a good hour, but eventually began to take opportunities to sneak between people or up the sidewalk in order to move forward. Even so, we didn’t end up getting past the 27-block-long assembly area and to the location the march had started, near Columbus Circle, until 3:30.

Since we spent so much time going at a slow or nonexistent pace at first, I had plenty of time to look around and appreciate the incredible diversity of the crowd which had descended on New York City for the march. People of all ages, from seniors in wheelchairs to babies in strollers, were present, and racial and geographical differences were wide-ranging too. I met or saw the signs of people from almost every state, as well as from Canada and Mexico.

The march was awash in various costumes and signs, including this Earth ice cream cone.

The march was awash in various costumes and signs, including this Earth ice cream cone.

In terms of sheer numbers, the march did not disappoint. The noise constantly produced by the crowds was tremendous, and it was bizarre to see the usually car-packed streets of the city filled instead with wildly costumed and accessorized crowds.

Most people carried signs, with slogans ranging from the goofy (“moo if you love earth,” carried by someone in a cow costume) to the clever (“we don’t have a plan(et) B”). Others voiced more specific political complaints, such as, “policy change, not climate change.”

Brookline students hold a sign.

Brookline students hold a sign.

People attracted attention in other ways, too, such as the members of an environmental group who had brought along banjos and led a significant portion of the marchers surrounding them in cleverly written songs.

The two minutes between 12:58 and 1:00 p.m., during which a moment of silence was held, made up what was by far the most meaningful moment of my day. The crowd slowly lowered its volume, then it suddenly fell silent. As far as the eye could see, tens of thousands of people up and down Central Park West raised their arms and lowered their heads.

It struck me at that moment just how much power and influence a well-organized and well-populated movement could have. If we could make a large area of one of the most densely populated cities in the world fall silent, we really could positively affect our climate.

Marchers raise their hands during the moment of silence.

Marchers raise their hands during the moment of silence.

The moment ended with a symbolic and organized ruckus, which began with the blow of a whistle somewhere at the front of the march and traveled in seconds to the latter parts of it, where I was.

This exaltation, comprised mostly of shouts and cheers but also of the racket produced by whistles, drums and noisemakers, represented a cry for change from the common people directed at those with more power and ability to make the earth healthier.

 

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