By Izzie Ramirez
WASHINGTON — It was another Saturday, another march to save the planet.
Except that unlike last Saturday’s March for Science, it wasn’t just geeks — geologists, chemists, environmental advocates and others — who turned out for today’s Peoples Climate March. In a crowd that filled Pennsylvania Avenue and was estimated by organizers at 200,000, there was hardly a social justice warrior to be found.
No, for the most part those who were marching — on President Trump’s 100th day in office, all the way from the U.S. Capitol to the White House, and in unseasonably warm temperatures that hit 90 degrees — were ordinary people.
Pregnant moms, nuns, and even children carried homemade signs reading “Renewable energy? I’m a huge fan” and “Planet first, America second.”
“I’m excited to be here because the march is going to be good for us and I get to go to the White House,” said Leo Amon, a six-year-old boy from North Carolina.
“And I’m going to save the world.”
The Peoples Climate March, led by a steering committee of 50 organizations and 500 more “partner” groups, is the latest large demonstration in Washington, D.C., this year, including the Women’s March on Jan. 21 and March for Science on April 22.
However, the Peoples Climate March had a different vibe, with organizers saying that they wanted it to focus on community voices.
There’s a big difference in population make up at the #PeoplesClimate march. More young people, people of color, more non-scientists.
— GSS (@GSSVoices) April 29, 2017
“The Peoples Climate March is about showcasing the strength of our people-powered movements,” a statement from the march’s FAQ page said. “Additionally, one of our core principles is to lift up the voices of community leaders, particularly those impacted by climate change.”
As a result, today’s march featured no big fancy stages or celebrity speeches. Instead, a diverse group of people appeared to seize the opportunity to make their non-scientific voices heard.
“I’m a Tibetan Buddhist nun from Massachusetts,” said Kalden, who asked to be identified by her Tibetan name, a single word.
“I’m here because I love the earth, plain and simple,” said Kalden, adding that she fears “this administration is going to do irrevocable damage to the environment.”
Julia Kennedy, 38, from New York, came out despite being nine months pregnant. Like other protesters, she said she was marching for her kids’ future.
“It’s our moral responsibility to take care of the earth,” Kennedy said. “Besides the girl I am carrying, I have two other kids.
“I do it for them,” she said. “The world is going to be a much darker place if we don’t take care of these issues now.”
Other marchers took part because friends encouraged them to participate in a cause aligned to other social issues, a principle known as intersectionalism.
José Nelson Flores, 44, a Salvadoran living in Maryland, came because of his friends. He carried around a giant pole with the flags of the United States, El Salvador and Ecuador.
“Well, the flag of Ecuador I’ve had for a year,” Flores said. “It was given to me by a girl at a march one time.
“Now, I stick with her,” said Flores. “I always end up coming to protest, but I never see her. I hope I can find the people who invited me, but I know nothing. I plan to march from here to the White House all day, though.”
While most marchers appeared to believe that they were taking steps towards change, some felt that more will be needed in order to walk back the Trump administration’s policies on the environment.
Over the past 100 days of his presidency, Trump has signed a series of executive orders that have impact on environmental policy, the latest on Friday allowing the size of national monuments to be “rescinded or reduced” in order to facilitate drilling and mining.
Demonstrator Becky Lipton declined to give her age but said people in her city of Eugene, Oregon, can take classes on how to be an environmental activist, something she wishes more communities would offer.
“There’s been drastic change in the past nine years in the Pacific Northwest,” Lipton said. “This has been the only somewhat normal year in terms of temperature. And it might be our last.
“The past few years it’s been too hot, kind of like California,” Lipton said. Trees are dying, you know, but we don’t have droughts so that’s not enough to restrict water usage. That’s why I came — because I’ve seen the effects firsthand.”
Using one of the president’ favorite words, Lipton said she believes the Trump administration’s plan to leave environmental policy up to the states is a “total recipe for disaster.”
“Many states will decide to not do anything,” Lipton said. “In fact, they will continue to increase their extraction of oil and gas and decrease their invest in green energies. If there aren’t some overarching rules and values that are in place for the national parks, again, states will decide to take advantage of those spaces and use them however they wish.”
There is a solution, though, according to Lipton.
“I think Americans need to get out and speak up,” Lipton said. “Get out. Get in the streets and be visible. Call their politicians. The media needs to be looking at the details of these issues; reporting on facts and not drama.”
Editor’s note: The Peoples Climate March is spelled without an apostrophe.
Featured photo by Izzie Ramirez.
—Ramirez, a freshman in New York University’s Washington program, is a science journalist who attended the Women’s March and the March for Science, among other demonstrations. This is her first story for Global Student Square.