More than a thousand Vermonters marched in New York City yesterday as part of the People’s Climate March.
Some marchers were dressed as polar bears, some carried small wooden windmill replicas in their hands and some of the older activists held signs saying they were marching for their grandchildren. Contingents affiliated with colleges, labor unions and religious groups marched banners denouncing hydro-fracking, the tar sands oil project in Canada and the XL pipeline. Magdeline Valetis came from Putney with her 13 year-old daughter Ashley.
"I couldn’t not come down. It was almost impossible and I wanted to bring my daughter down, too, so she could see and be part of this really historic event that hopefully’s going to bring some change to her and her generation of kids," Valetis said.
At least 22 buses transported Vermonters to the march. Four arrived Saturday night filled with people who slept in churches. Ben & Jerry’s paid for about half of the Vermont buses as well as a float featuring a melting ice cream cone. The Vermont contingent included demonstrators dressed as penguins carrying suitcases. The climate group 350 Vermont carried signs urging the state government to divest its pension funds of stock tied fossil fuels.
Although some advocates of nuclear power have called it a possible solution to the climate crisis, Schuyler Gould, a contractor from Barre, marched with a banner declaring, “Vermont Says No To Nuclear Power.”
"We cannot continue on the path of carbon resources any more. We need to go directly to renewables. We can do it!" Gould said.
There were large contingents from Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth marching but both UVM and Middlebury College students also turned out for the climate march. Zane Anthony is a junior at Middlebury, one of a group he estimated to be at about 150 students.
"I think that what matters most with these sort of things is getting people to care together. It’s not necessarily about the splash it makes in the urban environment. It’s more about the folks who are here getting together and escalating each other’s work," Anthony said.
Yesterday’s climate march in New York was just one of several held around the world. They were intended to bring a message to world leaders gathering at the United Nations on Tuesday for the climate summit. Lee Shen, a retired scientist who serves on Thetford’s conservation commission, hopes political leaders here in the United States are taking note of all the marchers in the street.
"We’ve created a really big mess and our leaders don’t seem to really realize this or to cowardly to actually act on it. You know, they’re beholden and intimidated by large corporations and they need to hear from the people. If no one speaks up, it’ll be business as usual," Shen said.
Many of the Vermont marchers returned home but one group organizer estimated that a couple hundred have remained here for a sit-in on Wall Street that aims to drive the climate crisis message home to the financial community.