On September 21st of last year, New York City lay host to the 2014 People's Climate March, the largest march of its kind. 311,000 people came, they say, though that number may be off by one or two. Regardless, several Germantown members and attenders were among them.
The Smithey family - that's Jude and Lee and their two children, Alison and Zeb - arrived on a crowded coach with Swarthmore students, where Lee is a professor.
"We finally started marching about half an hour after the time it was supposed to start," said Jude. "It had actually started at the right time, but there were so many people that when we got to the end, some people were just beginning!"
Afterward, Jude interviewed her 8 year old daughter, Alison:
Mom: Why did you want to go to the march?
Alison: Because I really care about nature, and we need it to live because some people are vegetarian and do not eat any kind of meat, not even fish. Climate change is making it too hot for many plants to grow. We get too much rain at once and then long times with no rain. Climate change is also killing people by pollution and animals in the sea are being killed because they eat our litter.
Mom: What was the most exciting part of the march?
Alison: I think the most exciting part of the march was this part when we all had to be as silent as possible for a minute in honor of the people who have suffered from climate change. At the end of the minute we had to make as much noise as possible. The shouting and yelling started at the front of the march and got louder and louder as it came closer to us and we joined in. It made me feel surprised and a little bit scared.
Mom: Do you think it is important for children to join in at these events?
Alison: I think it is important for kids to go because if you learn when you are young, it will be much easier to learn more or learn it all as an adult. We need to learn to recycle more, compost things, standing up for yourself and others and saying things that you believe in.
Mom: Do you think differently about climate change now?
Alison: Not really. I always knew that climate change was bad but I never really thought I could help change it. Now I know that I can let myself be heard. I thought I could only do things at school and at home, but now I know I can do it anywhere!
Mom: What else do you think we should be doing to stop climate change?
Alison: I think we should stop eating things that come from the store, and not use as much electricity. We should compost and recycle more, turn out lights and close outside doors. We should not eat as much beef and when we do eat meat we should try to buy the type that has had a good life.
Dee Dee Risher was at the march as well, and offered her impressions:
It had been many years since I was in a march this large, and one of the palpable changes was how visual everything was. In part, concerns about the earth draw a large coalition of different concerns than, say, a large disarmament march. In addition, the beauty of the earth itself invites drama.
I took a lot of photos, because I know that son, Luke, really wanted to march too, and could not, due to his play that day. I kept trying to think about what would intrigue him. Definitely a dinosaur made out of empty oil containers and pulled by a bike!
We were struck by the diversity of age and ethnicity in this movement, which has been traditionally dominated by white people. There was a festive and lovely atmosphere about looming planetary doom. It felt more like a parade, a parade with a purpose.
With hundreds of thousands of people, we still ran into about fifteen Philly friends.
I kept at bay the hard feelings and questions... Things like the great contradiction of driving hours to protest climate change and the certainty I have that most of us, including me, are unwilling to make the huge changes necessary to avoid the worst of climate change effects. Instead, I rejoiced at the number of young people there, at the energy, and at the hope that has to grow.
We don't, after all, know what happens next.