200 Swarthmore students, alumni, professors, and community members joined the estimated 400,000 people at the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, September 21. Marching with the student coalition, these Swatties walked 3.2 miles from 69th Street and Central Park West, around Times Square, to 42nd Street and 11th Avenue.
Swarthmore’s contingent, which marched next to groups from Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and other colleges around the country, included students from every year and alumni from the Class of 1971 to the Class of 2014. One notable alumni who participated in the march was Fred Wasserman ‘78, who was also involved in the Swarthmore apartheid divestment campaign.
Swarthmore’s participation in the march was organized by members of Mountain Justice and Ecosphere, all of whom viewed the march as a tremendous success. Organizers originally planned for 150 students to attend the march, and having a significantly larger number was “really incredibly to see,” said Mountain Justice member Stephen O’Hanlon ‘17. The march as a whole was also much larger than expected: only 250,000 attendees were originally expected, but an estimated 400,000 people attended.
In an effort to harness the march’s energy and bring it back to Swarthmore, Mountain Justice has been in communication with both President Hungerford and Board of Managers members about how Swarthmore can “can take leadership in addressing the climate crisis,” said O’Hanlon. “Fossil fuel divestment,” he said, “is about leveraging our institutional power and privilege to act in solidarity these communities.”
Some students stayed in New York City after the march to try and effect change outside the bubble. Sara Blazevic ‘15 and alum Kate Aronoff ‘14, attended Flood Wall Street, an unlawful gathering, on Monday, September 22. Flood Wall Street, said Blazevic, “aimed at targeting the root cause of the climate crisis: an economic system that is dependent on the exploitation and extraction of labor and natural resources from marginalized communities.”
Blazevic chose to participate in Flood Wall Street, she explained, because change will not come “through civil disobedience alone […] institutions upholding these companies (e.g. pension funds, religious institutions, universities, and colleges like Swarthmore) need to revoke their support for the destructive and unjust practices of the fossil fuel industry.”
Flood Wall Street was an action aimed at larger financial institutions, but the drive to effect change through pressure led Blazevic to choose not to be arrested at the demonstration, and instead return to Swarthmore to organize with Mountain Justice. Blazevic [concluded by] saying she was eager to work with Swarthmore students “towards pushing Swarthmore to be a leader in the climate justice movement, and bringing its investments in line with its ideals.”
Morally responsible investment moved slightly closer to the mainstream in the day after the march, when a group of more than 800 investors — including the heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune — pledged to divest a collective $50 billion from fossil fuel companies over the next five years. Other divestors include the World Coalition of Churches and the cities of Ithaca and Seattle.
Mountain Justice will hold a meeting on Thursday, September 25, at 7:30pm to discuss the march, the historic divestment of the Rockefellers, and what happens next in the campus divestment movement.
Featured image courtesy of Martin Froger Silva ’16/The Daily Gazette