First Person

Arms may be tired, but spirits are strong at Peoples Climate March in Washington

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Oxfam supporters marched at the Peoples Climate March in Washington, DC. Photo by Rebecca Gilbert/Oxfam America

Oxfam joined 200,000 activists in the Peoples Climate March to rally for environmental justice and sustainable climate action.

Hannah Chi is the campaigns intern at Oxfam America in the Washington, DC office. She is a senior at the University of Maryland.

My favorite poster from the People’s Climate March read, “I’ve been holding this damn poster since 1970 and my arms are getting tired.” Intrigued, I walked up to the older man holding this poster, and handed him some water. He gratefully accepted the offer and chuckled, “You’d think that after 15 marches I would know to bring my own drink!” I liked him instantly, and we ended up chatting for so long that before I knew it, we had traversed from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.

He told me his name was Ernest and that he was 75 years young. He had participated in our country’s first ever Earth Day in 1970. While he had initially advocated for policy action at the local level, particularly to stop the use of pesticides in his hometown, he told me that he was now rallying for much more. With natural disasters spanning across every continent and glaciers melting at the polar caps of the Earth, he was now fighting for communities across the globe and for future generations—especially for his 11 grandchildren.

The 2017 People’s Climate March was more than just an isolated event: it was truly a movement. The day began with a traditional water ceremony led by indigenous peoples and ended with an energetic benefit concert. The march was filled with works of art hand-created by various communities around the country, which stood as beautiful expressions of climate action. Indigenous groups, immigrants, labor unions, scientists, interfaith groups, renewable energy organizations, environmental activists, and concerned citizens all joined hands to protect the Earth that we all call our home.

Saturday’s march came at a critically important time. The march followed a catastrophic executive order that was signed on March 28th—which aimed to dismantle the Clean Power Plan—effectively prioritizing coal-fired power plants and wealthy corporations ahead of sustainable energy and clean air for all. Second, the media has recently reported that the administration may pull out of the landmark Paris Agreement which would break the US’s global commitment to tackle climate change.

The human costs of these actions are all too real. As we marched in DC, millions of people around the world face what the United Nations has called “the largest humanitarian crisis since WWII,” that is linked to both climate change, conflict and bad governance. In the Horn of Africa, persistent drought is causing crop failure and the death of livestock. As Oxfam has been working tirelessly with our allies and partners to distribute water and other aid on the ground and to fight for climate justice in our nation’s capital, it was particularly inspiring to march with climate activists who shared our concerns.

The People’s Climate March reinforced that we are stronger in numbers. In DC alone, we stood 200,000 strong and spanned over 20 blocks. Joined by 370 sister marches around the world, our energy was undeniable. We must harness this momentum and continue to mobilize for sustainable jobs and climate justice. We must continue fighting for those voices that have been silenced, for those whose homes have been wiped away from natural disasters, and for those who struggle to feed their families in the face of persistent droughts. In a sea of people, posters, and undeniable passion, I realized on Saturday that we have the power to lift the most vulnerable communities out of poverty and to fight against environmental injustice.

I’m grateful that I was able to join such an inspiring movement fighting for climate action in the streets of DC last weekend. Thank you to Ernest, the dozens of partners of the Peoples Climate Movement, and especially Action Corps NYC for joining Oxfam in our efforts. Together, we will continue mobilizing to protect future generations.

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