“This is what democracy looks like”: People’s Climate March, NYC
There is nothing quite like marching with 300,000+ people to help you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself. In such a setting, “This is what democracy looks like!” becomes more than just words when it is a roar of the countless voices that surround you. Rubber sole meets unevenly sunken grates, tracking through oil spots on normally heavy trafficked streets—you gaze up at signs and hands waving from above. It is disorienting, but in all the right ways.
The People’s Climate March in NYC was my first march. Hopefully it will be the first of many in my future as I continue to figure out how to better unite my academic studies with my desire to be more praxis-oriented. Inspired by so many feminist and womanist role-models that I encounter in the classroom and in my online work, my stepping out into the street feels like the right thing to do. Lifting up my voice with others to speak out for a more just future for all far exceeds all the individual choices I can and do make. The fact of the matter is simply this: this many voices cannot be ignored.
As simple as it may seem to affirm that climate change is a feminist issue, many layers of truth behind this statement are obscured. The continued use and demand of non-renewable resources comes at a cost to both the environment and many people whom we will never meet, often disproportionately impacting women across the world. The demand for newer electronic products fuels both environmental degradation and intense violence in “resource rich” regions. The desire for cheap and disposable fashion enslaves countless people in cycles of poverty at the same time as the waste products from these processes pollute these economically vulnerable places. We make so much “stuff” that we don’t even know what to do with it all or how to deal with its myriad of hidden costs. The fact that others across the globe are forced to take on our waste means that our bad choices end up impacting everyone, harming some more directly than others. Where is the justice in such a reality?
These facts feel overwhelming at the individual level. While we certainly must make smarter choices at the consumer level—buying to last, refusing what we don’t need—it is going to take more than the sum of our individual consumer choices to make a significant and lasting impact. Thus, we must speak out with more than just words—with our very bodies—in whatever way we can, but it must be together. The Climate March was one way for people to embody this process in order to create something that exceeded predictions, especially when compared with other American mass protests: again, this many voices cannot be ignored.
However, I acknowledge that it is a privilege to be able to undertake such a position. Not everyone has the time and the ability to choose more eco-friendly options, or to take time off work to demonstrate, or even to live in pollution-free areas. Thus, we must always ask ourselves one question as we work for a more sustainable future: “sustainability for whom?” The fact that the march was planned so that those first and most impacted by climate change would lead us as the “forefront of change,” indicates to me that these issues listed above are being noted and incorporated into the work we must do for the future. There is hope here, even though justice is still slow to come.
While marching with my fellow students from Drew University’s Theological School in Section 5. The Debate Is Over, it was clear to me how important it was for the various interfaith groups present that “taking action is a moral necessity.” Climate change, as a catalyst for unity, is one vital issue around which we must rally in the process of imagining what we need to do in order to have a more feminist future—one that acknowledges privilege, but does not let the conversation come to a standstill because of it. Too many lives are at stake to let individual guilt stop us from engaging in true societal change. Let it be so: this many voices will not be ignored.