On Sunday, Sept. 21, 500 college students from Maine and another 275 Maine residents joined more than 400,000 others at the Climate Justice March in New York City. The purpose of this march was to show that there is a mandate to act at the level that justice for our children and grandchildren demands. To date, U.N. climate negotiations have been unsuccessful, partly because the United States has resisted taking strong steps to reduce climate change. And two days after the march, President Barack Obama still refused to put a cost on greenhouse gas emissions, stating that our Congress wouldn’t support it.

The local marchers included 60 Colby and 25 Unity College students and six others bussed to the march, leaving Waterville at 1:30 a.m. and returning weary but inspired 28 hours later. What follows are some of their accounts.

Bryan and Mathew Martin-Evans: “Entering the march was much like stepping into an out-of-body experience. At 12:59 p.m., the entire march came to a complete stop, hands rose, an eerie silence fell upon the entire route. Sixty seconds later, a wave of noise began in front of us, noisemakers did their job, voices resounded, sirens screamed, and church bells rang. More than just hearing the noise, it took over our bodies and the shock wave was comparable to what a small earthquake would feel like.

“Behind us was a small group of children of all races, ages 6 to 10, who chanted, “What do we want?” And the response — “Action!” — could be heard echoing throughout Central Park. To our left was a group of people sitting cross-legged in meditation with a sign that read “Climate Vigil.” To our right a group of students from Harvard chanted, “Hey Obama, no more climate drama.” Directly in front of us, a group of teens and young adults played brass instruments.

“Sidewalks were filled with on-lookers, and the expressions on their faces could not be read as anything less than astonishment. Monks from Rome shook hands with Hindus from Africa. Catholics hugged LGBT people. We marched over a four-hour period of time — people from all over the world, of different ages, races and religions coming together in a neighborly manner for one cause. People shouted from windows, stirring thunderous applause. Marchers carried thousands of signs. My favorite, held by a pregnant woman, read: “We did not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we are borrowing it from our children.”

Tamie Trainer: “That so many people love the Earth and chose to gather together on the planet’s behalf, gave me goosebumps!”


Ester Topolarovam (leader of Colby environmental group): “It felt very empowering to march among hundreds of thousands of people from various backgrounds and various groups for the same cause: addressing climate change. Students from Colby are feeling very energetic and we hope to spread the awareness about climate change into our community and take further actions.”

That Sunday there were 2,808 climate justice events in 166 countries in support of the Climate March. There was a march in Auburn (50-60 marchers), and I attended an electric car show and another rally of 40 people in Portland, sponsored by the Maine Council of Churches. Meanwhile, thousands learned about climate at the 350.Maine table at the Common Ground Fair.

Why march? “We’re the first generation to see the effects of climate change, and the last generation who can do anything about it,” Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn said recently. Failing to act now would harm our children’s and grandchildren’s lives, which is unthinkable.

The technology of renewable energy is developed enough to replace fossil fuels if we have the political will, but the fossil fuel industry has stopped our government from acting. Massive people power is needed to overcome Big Oil’s money power. Time is short, and our climate cannot change direction quickly.

This march was a beginning, to show our leaders that the climate justice movement can no longer be ignored. We, the people of America, must raise our voices now, and demand more effective action.

Richard Thomas is a Waterville resident and co-leader of 350 Central Maine, a volunteer climate advocacy group.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.