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Hampshire at the Largest Climate March in History

There was a heavy feeling in the air on Sunday morning, September 21, in Central Park West and 6th Avenue. The feeling before a big thunderstorm: something was approaching, a fiery anticipation of action.

Climate March

There was a heavy feeling in the air on Sunday morning, September 21, in Central Park West and 6th Avenue. The feeling before a big thunderstorm: something was approaching, a fiery anticipation of action. For months thousands of organizers had mobilized their communities to march for change, ready to meet world leaders in the streets of New York City for the U.N. Climate Summit. It became the largest climate march in history, 400,000, and the Hampshire community was dutifully represented – with professors, children of professors, faculty, parents of students, graduates, and, of course, students.

After months of work, members of Hampshire’s Climate Justice group, Spiritual Life, Campus Leadership and Activities (CLA), and Community Partnerships for Social Change (CPSC) organized almost 80 students in one bus and two vans. Hampshire brought the most students to The People’s Climate March of any college in Western Massachusetts, a telltale sign of the progressive nature of the student body.

“It was such an inspirational sight to see the great number of us marching in the crowd,” said Nina Levison 13F, one of the other student organizers for the march. “So many of them were first years, which gives me great hope for the future of our group and the greater movement.”

Where other students have to get arrested in order to meet with the presidents of their institutions to discuss climate issues, Hampshire President and former president of the World Resource Institute Jonathan Lash came to speak at PopDev’s event, More than Just a Protest, days prior to the march. Jessa Orluk 11S, now the PopDev Environmental and Reproductive Justice Alumni Fellow, interviewed Lash about international climate policy, the importance of the New York Climate Summit, and why it’s necessary for all of us to act.

“People associate their futures with you,” Lash told the students in the audience. “There would not be a global climate negotiation if it weren’t for you all raising your voices.”

And raise our voices we did. We screamed, chanted, held hands, felt power from within our hearts and those that surrounded us, and couldn’t help smiling at each other at the feeling of anticipated (and overdue) action.    

After organizing this event for Hampshire for months, I thank all who came and supported us from the bottom of my heart. Oftentimes it’s easy to be overwhelmed by fear, grief, and anger at what’s happening around us. It’s easy to feel alone when we’re fighting billion dollar fossil fuel corporations who are sending us dangerously close to tipping points into a world where we simply cannot live. It’s easy to feel like no one is ever listening when mainstream media outlets still consider climate change a debate and when our own government leaders ignore and deny the issue because they’re receiving billions of dollars from the very corporations that are causing this climate chaos.

Yet it is events like the march where I’m able find peace, comfort, and empowerment. Being surrounded by likeminded and active individuals reminds me how incredibly large this movement is, and how many others are also dedicating their lives to this issue. 400,000 people marched in New York, along with 2,000 other events in 166 countries. I can’t help but feel like someone must be listening this time.

I’m so proud of my Hampshire community, and even more ready and eager to continue working with the 80 students who marched with us. There’s change in the air and work to be done. Thank you for doing the work of love and change, and for giving me hope in the world. Now let’s do this.

Photo Credit: Michael Lipton 11F

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