Student Attend New York Climate Protest

Sarah Conner

A group of 70 Oberlin students will travel to New York City this Saturday to attend the People’s Climate March, an environmental activism rally that is billed as “the largest climate march in history.”

The march was organized in response to the United Nations Climate Summit, where world leaders will convene at the U.N. headquarters Tuesday to work toward a new climate agreement and a new set of sustainable development goals that will be concluded in 2015.

For College senior and organizer Rachel Berkrot, the march itself is a classic example of Oberlin activism.

“There’s something really important about the camaraderie about joining other people who are fighting the same struggle that you are, and I think that is more important than voicing your own

opinion,” said Berkrot, who helped coordinate travel plans to New York City. “We do that — voicing our own opinions — here at Oberlin.”

The organizers of the protest, who predict that the march will attract thousands of people from around the world, have voiced a desire to set this year’s climate rally apart from those of previous years. While past marches have consisted of one single mass of protesters, this year’s rally will be organized into six sections, each based on the individual skills of the participants.

The first group, referred to as the “Frontlines of Crisis, Forefront of Change,” will be made up of indigenous peoples, environmental justice communities, climate-impacted communities and migrant, housing, farm and domestic workers. The second group, titled “We Can Build the Future,” will consist of labor unions and worker associates, public health

advocates, families, women, elders, students and youth.

Subsequent sections include organizations that offer solutions to climate change; groups that protest specifically against “environmentally unfriendly” organizations; and individuals, such as scientists, bee- keepers and wildlife preservation groups, who work to to pinpoint causes of climate change.

According to College sophomore and organizer Hayden Arp, this heterogeneity is one of the larger benefits of the rally.

“Environmentalists at the moment have a certain ethos or perception in the world as radicals on the side,or radical hippies,”Arp said. “One of the nice things about this march is that it’s going for such a di- verse group of people. It wants students, it wants old people, it wants people of all economic classes, of all races, of all backgrounds. Hopefully it will provide a much more whole- some view of what the environmental movement actually is.”

Berkrot said she agreed.

“Generally, these gatherings are young, white college students, and it is important to realize that,” she said.

While many of the students involved believe the march to be a mark of progressive activism, others have voiced their opposition.

For College sophomore and organizer Araxi Polony, it is important to be aware of the shortcomings of this type of protest.

“It’s hard to say ‘I did this, and here is the impact x days later.’ I think that is the biggest challenge in organizing environmental protests is that we don’t see immediate change,” Polony said. “What are the implications of going to a protest that may not involve the people who are most affected? And also, what are the implications of major

corporations like Goldman Sachs sponsoring this kind of protest? Is it worth it to be involved in something that may not be the ideal protest?”

Polony also said she recognized the importance of leaving the “Oberlin bubble.”

“The most important thing I’ve done is made connections within the Oberlin community and outside. [Oberlin College] Anti-Frack has done a lot of work with the people of Youngstown, [Ohio], who are seriously affected by fracking … we’ve really gotten to create a community with the people there, which has been super important. We base our philosophy off of creating these comments of resolution as part of the larger climate movement, but also by focusing on local issues and environmental justice issues, rather than being involved with the mainstream.”