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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A march for the ages

Published: October 10, 2014
Section: Opinions

On Sept. 21, Manhattan witnessed one of the largest marches in its history. It address climate change and the way in which global leaders have, for the most part, failed to address it. The streets quickly filled with a sea of people ranging across all social strata, demanding a more robust and efficient plan to combat climate change. One of the most prominent groups protesting was college students who descended upon the city from across the country. Although the march itself may not have propelled everyone to take a fiercer stance on the issue of climate change, it is nonetheless a testament to the power that a unified mass movement can have in this country, as well as in others.

One of the most crucial aspects of the march in New York was the eclectic mix of people who took part. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and renowned politicians such as Robert Kennedy, Jr., were all present as well as vociferous about their passion for reform. In fact, DiCaprio himself addressed the United Nations Climate Summit calling for “a need to put a price tag on carbon emissions and eliminate government subsidies for oil, coal and gas companies,” as well as urging governments to turn “to answer humankind’s greatest challenge.” Citizens, politicians and celebrities all stood side-by-side as they swarmed the streets, the world watching. The march received global attention from news stations and thus resonated with citizens on a global scale as well as a domestic one.

For all the attention the march received, however, it is important to remember how instrumental a part students can play in combating pertinent social issues and the actions that they can take. Social media is often used as a powerful tool to express one’s views as well as support many causes, but it often has to be coupled with action to be effective. Though marches like the one in New York show us how passionate and adamant people are about certain issues, there has to be a clearly defined overarching message as well as a set of goals. “Raising awareness” about grand issues such as climate change is no longer a necessary step to overcome.

As a result, in order to accelerate a process of reform, there must be clear demands from the people which can be acted upon. This way, it is easier for officials to take accountability as well as confront matters in a more deliberate manner. It is therefore important to always remember that protests, complaints and marches at any level, from those staged in college cafeterias to those in major cities, are not aided by a random clamor of voices and demands. One of the best ways to demand change is to be united for a clearly defined cause.

Lastly, the greatest lesson that everyone can learn from the events in New York is that it is never too late to take a more environmentally friendly step with regards to how we live. The ways in which each of us can make a difference are abundant. Minor acts may seem insignificant but if everyone does their part they have the capacity to make a huge difference. It is no longer a point of contention that the polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, and the Earth is getting exponentially warmer. If we want future generations to enjoy a similar standard of living, then serious action must be taken. Eventually a point will be reached where it has become too late. And it is the present generations who will bear the guilt.