by Richard Remigio, second year PhD in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences
A major event is occurring on September 21st in advance of the United Nations Climate Summit, where international leaders will convene to discuss necessary steps towards curbing greenhouse gas emissions and dampening climate change. It’s called The People’s Climate March (PCM). Thousands of people from near and far will be descending upon Gotham to urge international leaders to commit to global-based solutions in addressing climate change.
No one is impervious to the inevitable effects from human-influenced warming, and some populations will suffer immeasurably. Foreseeable consequences of global warming include displacement because of elevated sea levels, catastrophic flooding, heat-related deaths, famine, and drought. Ultimately, everyone should care about climate change as a human rights and environmental justice issue.
The effects from climate change have direct implications for public health across the entire global population. The Lancet wrote, “Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century…the impacts will be felt all around the world—and not just in some distant future but in our lifetimes, and those of our children.”
The scientific community has confirmed that climate change is very real and it is largely attributed to human-produced greenhouse gas emissions. But what remains murky is the trajectory towards mitigating the effects of climate change, and realizing that our present capacities for adaptation are horrifically disparate, under-developed and unknown. Over the last 25 years, it has been an uphill battle to gather, defend, and communicate the mounting lines of evidence validating climate change—especially due to the politicization of the subject by a fringe minority of skeptics, as well as those with competing best interests that are not aligned to this global crisis.
Climate change means intense heat waves, flooding, rising sea levels, and more severe storm events. This leads to damaging consequences to agricultural productivity, ecosystem health, water supplies and air quality, as well as the distribution of pests and emergence of infectious diseases. The health and economic effects are large and will exacerbate global conflict and migration. We must develop thoughtful strategies for mitigation and adaptation to reduce climate change and dampen its effects.
The People’s Climate March is an opportunity for concerned citizens to be heard—for the silent majority can no longer remain silent. As students of climate, science, the environment and human health, we have an opportunity to take action and mobilize others to participate. The majority of us are concerned with the lack of meaningful, informed climate change policy, which is desperately needed to address global warming. In the U.S.A., we read a lot about the challenges in developing and implementing climate change initiatives across varying scales with things like the Kyoto Accord, rule-making on air quality standards, caps on greenhouse gas emissions, green building/smart-growth initiatives, and court challenges against the USEPA. These policymakers are congregating in New York City during Climate Week, so they can hear our voice and understand that we want and need meaningful action.
The PCM is an opportunity to gather the people from all walks of life: young and old, believers and agnostics, health practitioners and the sick, teachers and students, oppressed and privileged. We can all take a unified stance to let the gathered policymakers know that we are listening and counting on them to pave the way. This is a call to arms to action on climate change.
By being witness to, and endorsing the largest discussion on climate the world has ever seen, people in New York City have the chance to be at the forefront of a historical and monumental event. The actions we take during NYC Climate Week will foster lasting discussions on the international response to climate change and how to protect the livelihood of millions.
The People’s Climate March is not just about saving our planet; it is about saving each other.
Editor’s Note: Dean Linda P. Fried joins the student effort of Mailman Marches Together, issuing the following statement:
At the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, students and faculty are deeply committed to public health interventions that sustain unpolluted air, potable water, and healthy cities and people. On September 21, members of the Mailman School community will join together for the People’s Climate March. A student-led initiative, Mailman Marches Together, brings together students, alumni and faculty to raise awareness about the public health impacts of the changing climate. Students Erika Eitland, Augusta Williams, Richard Remigio, Madeleine Hopson, Dan Roskowski, and Caroline Croyle have spearheaded the efforts, along with the support of several Mailman-based student groups, Greater Community Reach, Graduate Student Association, Students for Environmental Action and Association for Justice and Health. With the world turning its attention to New York City for a week of environmental awareness, including the United Nations Climate Summit on September 23, our students’ actions will help make the Climate March the largest gathering in defense of the environment and set the tone for the evolving global climate agenda.
How can you get involved?
First, check out the People’s Climate March website to get a better handle on the event, and then sign up through our EventBrite website. The first 200 people that sign up through EventBrite using their UNI are guaranteed a superbly designed Mailman-PCM T-shirt.
You can stay up to date with Mailman Marching Together events and updates by regularly checking our Facebook page and following us on Twitter: @MailmanMarches.
When are things going down?
Mailman Marching Together will be hosting and showcasing events related to climate change and health during the week leading up to PCM. Come to one or all of the events, and be a part of the conversation. PCM T-shirts will be distributed at the Disruption screening.
Bake Sale: Monday, September 15, from 11:30am to 1pm, ARB Lobby
- Raising funds and awareness for all the great climate and health event this week.
Disruption Movie Screening & After Party: Wednesday, September 17, from 7:30-9:00pm, ARB Auditorium, 8th Floor
- Join us for a free movie screening, audience discussion and after party hosted by Students for Environmental Action, Greater Community Reach, Graduate Student Association & the list is growing!
March Poster-Making Party: Friday, September 19, from 11:30am-1:00pm
- Get excited for the march and show off your activism! Signs will be used for the day of the People’s Climate March!