By Kirsten Gehl
My friend Peter and I jumped on our bikes this past Saturday and began our 10-mile ride to Potsdam, NY for the People’s Climate March. We figured that we would make a statement by biking the strenuous 20-mile round trip to our neighboring town—why not emit zero emissions and save gas to travel to a march advocating for the health of our planet?
I had never participated in a march of any sort before this Saturday; I’d say now that the Potsdam Climate March met my expectations of the typical peaceful democratic protest. The posters were numerous, enthusiastic smiles were plastered from face to face, devoted passion for such an important problem was visible, people were motivated about the cause, the speakers were exemplary, and even pet dogs were amped. These people truly cared about the environment and saving our one and only home. It was an immensely reassuring experience. The gathering of concerned citizens coming together to fight for this cause made me hopeful for the future. I was even more hopeful knowing that sister marches were happening all over the world with even bigger numbers coming out for the cause.
As many of us know, our liberal arts campus certainly has demonstrated a strong passion for protecting our home. Our clan of 30-something SLU students made a strong presence amongst the ranks of other concerned community members by leading some rowdy chants and toting some gnarly posters and banners alongside. We set a really good example among the local community and its members—I could tell that the other concerned citizens alongside us were pleased to see their local university taking action and standing for what we believe is right. Besides, the issues pertaining to our shriveling world are now primarily in our hands: our generation is the one that needs to implement change. Oil use won’t stop, the ice caps won’t stop melting, the planet’s temperatures won’t stop rising—that is, unless we do something. Activism, such as calling your state senator, doing a roadside cleanup, or participating in a climate march like this one is one step toward solving this problem. SLU students are on their way to making a big difference, and that was apparent at the march.
As Peter and I pedaled through strong headwinds at a snail’s pace on our way back to Canton, we breathed heavy sighs and felt pain in our legs. Yet, in our minds we felt optimism. While our brief 20-mile ride may have only reduced our annual carbon emissions by a miniscule amount, we knew that by first taking small steps, bigger steps are to come later. Our 30-student presence at the march may have only consisted of a tiny fraction of the global population, but we knew that if someone hadn’t spoken up, no one would have. The biggest takeaway from the Potsdam People’s Climate March? I think Margaret Mead said it best: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”