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Opinion

People’s Climate March still affects UWRF student

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February 25, 2015

We all have those moments in life that we will never forget: the beloved, or regretful, first kiss; the first time you moved away from home; or the exact place you were when you first heard about the Sept. 11 attacks.

For me, that unforgettable moment took place at the People’s Climate March (PCM) in New York City in September of 2014.

At 1 p.m., participants with a cell phone received a text notifying them about the moment of silence dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. There was a hush to the music, chanting and marching. For that moment, it seemed as if even the trains had stopped to join the powerful silence.

In the following 15 seconds, an estimated 400,000 participants stood in silent solidarity with those devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Then, a roar bellowed against the steep skyscraper canyon walls of Manhattan and passed over our heads. Many stopped in awe as the sound echoed through Times Square, and followed the streets to the headquarters of the United Nations.

The day after the PCM, the United Nations’ Climate Summit began. At the summit, the world’s leaders and top officials from the private sector met to discuss ways to combat climate change. Much of the week was spent drafting the yet-to-be-signed “Paris Alliance,” planned for a vote in December at the United Nations Climate Summit in Paris, France.

Roughly seven weeks after the PCM, China and the U.S. agreed to a historic deal to significantly reduce the emissions of the world’s top two carbon emitters. This was the first time the two countries most responsible for the climate crisis have publicly admitted climate change is a serious and enduring threat, and the ambivalence the countries have shown must stop. The goals the two countries set forth were a huge step in the right direction, yet they do not suffice to avert the earth’s warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

Much work is yet to be done, and our generation has to lead the way.

97 percent of scientific reports conclude that the rise in CO2 levels is due to human activity, and that emission reductions must begin as soon as possible to stave off the most serious effects of climate change. The scary consensus is that the world needs to cut carbon emissions by nearly 50 percent by 2030 to withhold the 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature. To do this, we can start by throwing out the window the idea that our national political scene will handle the problem.

Since the result of the midterm elections, the U.S. Congress has gutted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and put climate deniers at the head of nearly all scientific committees regarding energy policy and climate change. If there is to be a deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., a unified, multi-generational and multi-cultural voice must be loud enough to break through partisan gridlock.

The PCM was the largest march in American history and had gatherings in 2,646 locations around the world, with millions of others standing in together in support of action on climate change. For perspective, recall that the Civil Rights March on Washington D.C. in 1963 was estimated to be roughly 250,000 people, 150,000 less than the march in New York City last September.

As a convergence of civil rights and environmental justice organizations, the PCM was global; events took place in Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, Rome, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and hundreds of other places. Mass collaboration with roughly 1,500 unions, churches, schools, environmental justice and civil rights organizations around the world made the PCM possible. The climate justice movement has grown exponentially in the past three years and the active climate change community is very well connected.

Ignoring climate change comes with only short term and large corporate benefits. Confronting climate change can create millions of jobs and make a healthy planet within reach. Our retirement, our kids’ future, and our grandchildren’s hopes of having a lifestyle resembling the one we live in today, are at stake.

The problem of climate change will not go away; it will simply get worse every day we wait for others to act. If we want fertile land, reliable food and water, and a high standard of living for our children, the only logical choice is to face climate change, not once the “Paris Alliance” is signed, but right now. We must believe that change can happen soon, and that we want to ignite that change.

Since delving into the science of climate change, I’ve asked myself this hundreds of times: when did it become okay for Americans to look at civilization’s most drastic problems and say “Well, we can’t do anything about that. That one’s too big?”

At the PCM, believing there is a chance for change was easy. Efforts by everyday people around the world made it possible to hear that wall of sound roll through Lower Manhattan and echo all across the globe. Why wouldn’t we, the millenials, want to be the generation that saves the planet?