Over 100 Tufts students took to the streets to bring the fight for climate justice to New York City, joining throngs of demonstrators in the People’s Climate March on the morning of Sept. 21. The march, which coincided with the United Nations Climate Summit on Sept. 23, drew over 400,000 protesters, making it the single largest climate march in history.
Tufts Climate Action (TCA) helped to spearhead the effort to transport students to and from the rally and facilitate Jumbo involvement, but many Tufts students found out about the event on their own, according to TCA member Ben Weilerstein.
“There was not a lot of outreach on our part to tell people about [the rally] and make them interested in coming,” Weilerstein, a junior, said. “That kind of happened organically.”
Weilerstein, along with fellow TCA members junior Sarah Killian and sophomores Shana Gallagher and Henry Jacqz, rented two large buses through TCA, on which students then reserved spots. Gallagher discussed the importance of the event in the decision to organize Tufts students’ attendance.
“Nothing in history has ever changed without people having to take to the streets and really show how much they care about something, and so I would say the goal of the march was to try to make sure that the UN knows that,” Gallagher said. “Just because there hasn’t been action before doesn’t mean that there is not still a chance. We still have time. People from all over the world and all walks of life care about this.”
Both Gallagher and Weilerstein said they had already planned to attend the rally before TCA’s initiative, and both students said they were particularly struck by the juxtaposition between the sobering topic of climate change and all the positive energy the marchers brought to the protest.
“For me, and I think for Tufts Climate Action as a group, the goal was to build relationships and build power,” Weilerstein said. “When you take someone … to this massive, exciting event, it just energizes you, it inspires you.”
Ana Manriquez Prado, who took part in the march, said that the event helped bring together people with similar beliefs.
“I had been to other marches before … but at Tufts, [the march] was the first big thing that I participated in,” Manriquez Prado, a freshman, said. “It definitely gave me a sense of community, because all the people that went had the same goals.”
Going forward, Weilerstein said that he hopes to capitalize on the momentum created by the march to create greater on-campus involvement.
“The People’s Climate March just happened, but the People’s Climate March starts right now,” he said. “This is now when we start marching or keep marching because … we filled the streets of New York City and climate change didn’t end. This is totally the time to harness all of the intense excitement and energy that everyone felt.”
Director of the Environmental Studies Program and Professor of Biology Colin Orians underscored the importance of attracting attention to global climate change.
“So much is about politics and willingness to stand up and make a change,” Orians said. “Getting it to be mainstream and not something that is just on the fringes is really important.”
Gallagher said that she is ready for Tufts to assume its responsibility in terms of sustainability.
“There are just a lot of local organizations that are working on environmental justice and environmental racism issues, and a lot of people that are in Tufts Climate Action are passionate about those,” she said. “We are investing in Tufts, and Tufts should be investing in our future and not profiting from these destructive industries, so I think Tufts’ administration and students have a responsibility to try and use some of that leverage.”