University of North Georgia (UNG) students Kayla Ballenger and Rebecca Glaze traveled 16 hours by bus recently to join an estimated 400,000 marchers in calling for action at the United Nations (U.N.) Climate Summit in New York City.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited many world leaders to the Sept. 23 summit at U.N. headquarters to discuss actions for combating climate change. The People's Climate March was held in tandem to give climate change activists a voice in demonstrating to the leaders their desire for prompt, sweeping action.
"I knew I wanted to participate, but I thought my participation was going to be by watching on a television screen, cheering on the marchers in NYC," Ballenger said. "But I found out that there were buses traveling to the event from Atlanta and Athens, so I immediately got onto the website and bought tickets for us."
|Many attending the march brought intricate signs and props.|
According to PeoplesClimate.org, some 50,000 college students attended the march with more than 1,500 organizations participating.
"The people we met on the bus were wonderful individuals, and each of them had courage beyond measure to stand up for what they thought was right," Glaze said. "That was absolutely inspiring to me. I expected that the people attending this march would be young college students, but that was not the case. There were people of all ages, races and ethnicities, all religions, careers, and even political beliefs — everyone put their differences aside and came together for this imperative cause."
Ballenger and Glaze made a presentation about their experience to students of UNG's Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis (IESA). Ballenger is majoring in environmental studies; Glaze is majoring in human services delivery and administration.
"Many people have asked me how environmental studies relate to my major," Glaze said. "It is important to realize that climate change is also a human issue."
During their presentation, Ballenger and Glaze discussed the trip and the outcomes of the event. Since the march, New York City has pledged to reduce emissions, Ki-moon and President Barack Obama have mentioned the march in their U.N. speeches, and many groups have divested holdings in fossil fuels totaling about $50 billion.
"I became interested in understanding environmental issues in high school when I took AP environmental science," Ballenger said. "I've always been aware of the climate change phenomenon, but I didn't really become interested in it until I became a student at UNG and began studying the various human factors that have been linked to climate change, such as our 'cheap' energy usage of oil, coal, natural gas, etc. There's so much emphasis on saving our environment from the effects that climate change is having on it, but there isn't as much emphasis on the fact that humans are part of the environment and we need saving too. So my interest lies in bringing awareness of environmental pollution to people so that we can achieve environmental health and human health."