On Sunday, September 21, more than 300,000 people gathered around New York City’s Central Park for the first ever People’s Climate March. The event was billed as the largest climate justice gathering in history, and it signaled an important shift in the movement toward environmental sustainability. It was not merely inclusive of people of color, but dependent on them.
The marchers came for different reasons. There was Brittani, a 20-something, black Tennessee native who remembers her college in Knoxville having the worst air quality in the country. "I want this world to be livable for my children," she told me standing alongside police barricades near West 67th street. There was also Sayema, a Bangladeshi-American college student who had passed signs promoting the march for months on her way to class. "I didn’t expect to see this many people turn out," she said, noting that she was impressed by such a massive mobilization. Colorlines spoke with marchers about their motivations for joining the march, and their hopes for the climate justice movement as a whole.
Mengjun and Jiahui Xu
Nanjing and Wuhan, China
Both chemistry majors from China, Jiahui and Mengjun know well how to spot the impact of climate justice. From pollution in their hometowns to unseasonably warm winters in their adopted city of New York, they’re eager to see change. "I want to put a stop to fossil fuel pollution," Mengjun said.
Angel said he’s angry about the economic inequity that’s fueling climate change. "Countries like mine are the most impacted by economic policies that create change," he said. "I want us to survive."
Denise was eager to be a part of the largest climate justice gathering in history. "So many people’s lives are being devastated," she said. "From fires and mudslides in California to storms along the East Coast, you hear about it all the time now."
Queens, New York
"I want to put a stop to fossil fuel pollution," Arthur told me along the march’s Upper West Side route. A passionate environmental justice advocate, he was one of the many volunteers who helped the historic march go smoothly.
Jessica traveled more than 2,000 miles to make a statement on U.S. soil. "The countries that have the most destructive environmental policies don’t take responsibility [for climate justice]," she said.
Trinidad and Tobago
Arielle sees the devastating effects of climate change every day in Trinidad and Tobago. "I don’t know where the Caribbean will be in six years," she said. "I’ve seen beaches completely disappear."
Helen, Nishat and Angela
Bard High School Early College, New York City
Climate change became real for these high school students after Hurricane Sandy. "Our school, which is right along the East River, flooded," Nishat said. "Everything in my locker was ruined and our school moved to Queens for a week." Motivated to take action, they joined their school’s chapter of Amnesty International, which sponsored their trip to the march.