MSU students bussed to New York City for weekend climate march
World leaders met at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on Tuesday to discuss plans to mitigate the ever-present problem of climate change. Two days prior, MSU students joined an estimated 300,000 others to march through the city’s streets to try to impact the decisions made by those same leaders.
The People’s Climate March, billed as “the largest climate march in history,” was organized to draw the attention of the delegates attending Tuesday’s U.N. Climate Summit.
According to the U.N., the summit joined more than 120 heads of state together to “announce their vision and commitment for reaching a universal and meaningful climate agreement in 2015.”
Fifty students from MSU Greenpeace and Central Michigan University’s Student Environmental Alliance took a charter bus to Sunday’s rally.
The group left late Saturday night to march the next day before boarding the bus and heading back to Michigan later that night in what media and information senior Anna Gustafson playfully referred to as a “day trip to New York.”
“A huge factor in the march was the fact that the U.N. Summit was this week,” said Gustafson, who is a group leader for MSU Greenpeace. “People felt like they were having their voices heard for a reason — they’re not just shouting into oblivion.”
Originally, the rally was expected to draw 100,000. But more than 300,000 people showed up.
The march’s route started on the west side of Manhattan’s Central Park and stretched more than four miles south. But there were too many people to fit into that area.
“The march was planned to be two miles long,” said global and area studies senior Liz Topp. “But because there were so many people, they filled a four-mile stretch. Just the people.”
The idea behind the largest-ever climate march was to send a sort of “power in numbers” message to heads of state who could impact change, Topp said.
“What we wanted to do was show all the world leaders that are going to be having their summit on climate change at the U.N. in New York this week that there is an overwhelming amount of Americans — as well as people around the world — that care about climate change issues,” Topp said.
In August, Gustafson and Topp were told by Greenpeace that if they could find 50 riders to make the trek from East Lansing to New York City, it would help cover some of the costs for the charter bus. Because of that, the 26-hour round trip cost just $20 per rider.
“Getting the bus filled was not a problem at all,” Gustafson said.
According to the People’s Climate March’s website, the gathering got so large that by the end of the day, organizers had to send a text “asking marchers to disperse from the march route because the crowds had swelled beyond the route’s capacity.”
That was a good problem to have, Gustafson said.
“I think it’s going to send a big message, because we really did shut down New York City for a whole day,” Gustafson said. “Which not a lot of things can do.”