On Sunday, Sept. 21, more than 45 Hamilton students, alumni, faculty and staff boarded buses, cars, trains, and subways to arrive at the corner of 71st and Central Park West in New York City to participate in the People’s Climate March. Along with approximately 400,000 fellow marchers, students waited eagerly -- with signs, whistles, costumes and posters -- so that they could demand action before the United Nations Climate Summit, which took place on Sept. 23.
Both Hamilton's Environmental Action Group (HEAG) and Fossil Fuel Divestment Organization spearheaded the initiative to bring the marchers from Clinton, N.Y., to New York, N.Y. Whether in support of local farmers, a vegan lifestyle, animal rights or fossil fuel divestment, all those involved united under the notion that "something" must be done on the political level to fight climate change.
The march itself began at approximately 11:30 a.m., and many students were still moving through the streets at 5 p.m.-- hours after they had started. It was a balmy and overcast day, with highs approaching 80 degrees. But despite the humidity, Hamilton students crossed the New York City streets with energy, shouting in unison with other marchers, both young and old, that "this is what democracy looks like."
Many students cite the highlight of the weekend as the personal connections they made. Several were fortunate enough to run into Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, longtime environmental writer and activist, and key organizer behind the march. Meghan O'Sullivan '15 and Katrina Rabeler '12 posed for a picture with McKibben after passing through Times Square. Although McKibben is one of her heroes, Rabeler said that "hearing the roar of the crowd stretching in a wave through the city was even more exciting. It was then that I realized how enormous this was. I got chills."
Hannah Trautmann '15 felt equally affected by "strength through community." Even before leaving the hill, Trautmann remembers the positive reception from the Hamilton community as one of the highlights of her weekend. "When we were packing up my car in the student lot before heading into the city on Saturday," she said, "a man and a woman stopped us and asked if we were headed to the rally. Upon hearing that we were, the woman gave us huge hugs, and thanked us for what we were doing. Sometimes you can feel alone in the effort, or ignored -- but the number of people I met this weekend who shared my passion gave me hope for the future."
At the United Nations Climate Summit on Sept. 23, President Obama called for UN action to curb global warming and mentioned the march specifically as incentive to act, stating that: "the alarm bells keep ringing; our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call."
And Hamilton students are acting to ensure that the call does not go unanswered. With the march over, another year of activism is just beginning. Thanks to the experience of being part of such a historic event, Hamilton students are inspired to keep the momentum moving on issues of importance to them, and are grateful for the support of the college and local community as they continue to push for action -- locally, federally and internationally.