In the past 5 days I have taken two separate 22 hour bus rides, met over 50 new people, crossed about 5 state borders, shared sleeping spaces with strangers and walked in 90 degree weather with 200,000 other people. So, yeah you could say it was a busy weekend.
Traveling to Washington, D.C. to participate in the 2017 People’s Climate March was an eye-opening, and exhausting, experience. The most memorable part of the trip was probably not the march itself, but the people I met there. On my bus, there were people who had been in the climate movement since before I was born, along with people for whom this was one of their first marches. Many different organizations were also present, and it reminded me that this movement is large and widespread. Climate change can be overwhelming, but it is invigorating to know that there are people and organizations everywhere doing the work at the local level to make change happen.
Another thing I really appreciated was the focus on climate justice. Another term you might have heard before is “environmental justice,” which is a similar concept but on a broader scale. I like to think of climate justice as looking as climate change from a more critical perspective. It brings issues like economic and racial inequality to the table and asks, “How does climate change affect these groups differently? Why?” It makes conversations around climate change more truthful and real. Often environmental work is over-simplified, even by the people who are in the movement, and thought of as an issue that affects everyone because we all live on the same planet. Yes, climate change does and will affect everyone but in many different ways and at far different levels. The climate movement must always support Indigenous people fighting for their land, or communities of color and low income communities fighting for the clean air and water that is often denied to them.
After this march, I want to encourage everyone who participated, or watched a live stream, or even heard a news story about it for a minute on the radio, to use this energy and show up. Show up at rallies and marches. Show up at phone banks and door knocking. Show up by donating extra money to a local organization. Show up staying up to date on the news and calling your legislators once a week. Show up by educating yourself on local issues that might not affect you or your neighbors but will the affect the people living two neighborhoods over. Show up.