Seven Mount Allison students were among the 400,000 protesters who flooded the streets of Manhattan last week in a call for action on climate change. The march was the largest recorded environmental protest.
“It didn’t really matter where you were from, because everyone was chanting with one voice,” said Elly Hannon, a second-year fine arts student. Hannon joined Graham May, Lauren Latour, Jenna Gaudet, Zoe Luba, Emma Jackson, and Morgan McGinn on the 17-hour drive to New York to participate in the march.
Graham May, a fourth-year environmemtal studies andinternational relations student, said it took him an hour to walk from the front of the march to the back. Walking against the flow, May said he saw droves of people, from students to Aboriginal groups to religious leaders to celebrities. “It felt like the entirety of our society is walking the streets of New York,” May said.
The people marching came from all walks of life, and all over the globe. “We’re not a fringe group of environmentalists; we’re a constituency,” said Lauren Latour, a fourth-year environmental studies student. Geography professor Brad Walters said that even in the age of the internet, when online activism is more popular than ever, physical protests garner more attention.
“There is nothing like bodies in the street to send a powerful message,” said Walters, who taught a course last year on environmental activism. “It’s hard to get through the skulls of young people.” The students also protested prime minister Stephen Harper’s stance on the environment. Their protests were particularly directed at his continued support for development of the Alberta tar sands, and his absence at the UN climate summit.
“We find it completely unacceptable that Harper refused to attend the summit,” Hannon said. While many Canadians were outraged at Harper’s absence, Walters said it was no surprise. “It’s completely expected. Anyone who’s surprised by it hasn’t been paying attention,” Walters said. “He’s not just dragging his feet; he’s actively trying to undermine it.”
While in New York, the group also attended a youth convergence at Martin Luther King high school, where they discussed the challenges of fossil fuel divestment with other students at American universities.Latour, who leads the protest for Mt. A’s divestment from fossil fuels, said the strategies they heard about could kickstart the protest into “high gear.”
Beyond the divestment from fossil fuels, Latour said that Mt. A can do more to combat climate change. Environmental clubs like EcoAction seek to lower the ecological footprint of Mt. A, and the Green Investment Fund finances environmental projects. “There is a lot of room for the expansion of the environmental movement on campus,” Latour said. “Just because you didn’t go to the march doesn’t mean you can’t carry that movement back to Mt. A.”