Climate Marches Necessary to Spark Democratic Action

Chloe Vassot, Contributing Writer

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon graced the public spotlight last Sunday as images emerged of him proudly sporting a U.N. baseball cap and a graphic T-shirt that read, “I’m for Climate Action.” Next to him stood New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Vice President Al Gore and primatologist Jane Goodall, who was toting her trusty toy monkey mascot. The event bringing such a group of esteemed individuals together? The People’s Climate March, at which an estimated 310,000 people gathered in New York City to demand immediate action on climate change issues.

The march, organized to coincide with the U.N. Climate Change Summit, was planned with great goals in mind. With the march now behind us, the question is this: Will its impact be as great as the goals it promoted?

At its heart, the People’s Climate March was concerned with amplifying the voices of people around the world. The need for global leaders to heed popular consensus has never been greater than with the issue of our global environment. The type of loud and unified democracy that the People’s Climate March exemplified is sorely needed around the world and, just as pressingly, in the United States.

The calls of climate change activists have fallen on willfully deaf ears in the U.S. government for far too long, and they have thus resulted in only negligible improvements to climate-related legislation. Our current Congress has proven itself deeply ineffective, meaning that one of our most relied-upon methods of spurring change in a democratic manner has been rendered nearly useless. The power of the people to effect policy change has stalled, and this must be remedied.

When speaking specifically about America though, there is, of course, the unfortunate reality that a large segment of the population does not believe that human actions are exacerbating climate change, or that it even exists. Given this, there is no guarantee that voicing popular opinion will prompt our government to increase its focus on environmental issues. According to a recent poll in The New York Times, 54 percent of people said that human activity such as burning fossil fuels caused global warming, 31 percent said natural patterns in the Earth’s environment were the primary causes and 10 percent said global warming does not exist at all. That means at least 41 percent of the public will not see the necessity of legislation to combat the anthropogenic contributions to climate change.

It is incredibly difficult to argue with climate change deniers. In the Oberlin bubble, it seems that everyone is aware of the current problems our little blue planet is facing, but outside of liberal enclaves, the atmosphere is much different. I grew up in a conservative area where people attempted to tell me that polar bears were not dying but simply migrating. (They could never answer as to where.) There is a very large portion of the U.S. population that refuses to accept our environmental reality, and as these people vote, we continue to elect climate deniers to government offices such as the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, halting any efforts to change the current situation.

We need more People’s Climate Marches. We need the people who care about this planet to unify in educating the rest of the public and force our government officials into action to help protect our planet’s future, as well as our own.

Following the U.N. Climate Summit on Sept. 23, Ki-moon was positive about what was achieved, calling it a “historic day” for international commitments to curb the effects of climate change. It’s possible that the People’s Climate March had something to do with that success; if that is the case, then the rest of the U.S. must emulate that technique. The U.S. needs loud democracy from passionate citizens for our country and for the good of the international community.

For too long America has been the spoiled rich child of our planet, making huge messes and refusing to help clean up. That pattern of behavior must change. We need to force our leaders to act, and we need to do it in a way that is impossible to ignore. The good of the planet depends on our success.