The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

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February 21, 2024
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Insight From a Fordham Climate Protestor

Becoming an active member in protests, demonstrations and other forms of advocacy not only allows for change but can also be a positive experience in engaging with a community working toward building a better future
Students+who+care+about+protecting+the+environment+should+organize+and+participate+in+protests+demanding+action.
CLAIRE SEKA
Students who care about protecting the environment should organize and participate in protests demanding action.

The constant consumption of “scorched earth” news headlines and learning about those in power jeopardizing our future for profit is inescapable. Processing such information alone is becoming a heavy load to bear.  This poses a question for those looking to create real change and are wondering how they should go about doing so. 

What would be the best course of action for actualizing progress, spreading awareness and uplifting others — if not through community and cooperation — together? Protests are the most effective course of action for environmental justice. Protests and demonstrations allow participants to process an onslaught of intense information with those advocating for the same cause in meaningful ways in hopes of accomplishing change. 

It is hard to fully grapple with the reality of this corrupt and unjustified system in which we unwittingly taking part. I am certain that I am contributing to companies’ efforts to pollute natural ecosystems or low-income neighborhoods via federal subsidies and tax breaks. 

It is difficult to be reminded daily about the continued decimation of our planet as a direct result of our consumption habits and actions as a society. When you care about something deeply, however, it is hard to feel powerless standing among a group of advocates fighting for change. Joining protests, demonstrations or rallies can be a great exercise in using your voice and engaging with others.

On Sept. 18, I participated in a demonstration in which over 100 environmental activists occupied the Federal Reserve Bank in Lower Manhattan. After refusing to disperse and to leave the Federal Reserve Bank, demonstrators were arrested — including myself. 

The Federal Reserve was chosen as the location for the protest to highlight Wall Street’s financing of the fossil fuel industry. According to CNN, oil and gas companies made over $4 trillion — with a “T!” — in 2023 alone, in profits, and U.S. banks provided these companies with an additional $673 billion in resources. 

I wish I lived in a world where actions such as sit-ins and protests did not need to be taken to address climate change and other urgent issues… Because this is the situation we face though, I didn’t think twice about standing my ground for what I believe in, and I would protest again even though I was handcuffed for it. 

It is hard to fully grapple with the reality of this corrupt and unjustified system in which we unwittingly taking part.

Coal, oil and gas companies have known since 1968 that their industry would cause “serious worldwide environmental changes.”  Their business practices are directly linked to environmental disasters, such as wildfires and floods, that end up killing and displacing individuals, as well as contributing to incredibly harmful CO2 emissions. 

Instead of making a change, the coal, oil and gas companies doubled down on their production of fossil fuels, and operated campaigns of misinformation to be spread to the public about the origin of climate change. By funding these corporations and allowing new pipeline installations and fossil fuel projects, Wall Street and U.S. banks are complicit in — if not directly responsible for — the environmental devastation that occurs as a result. 

Historically, climate demonstrations have influenced the U.S.government’s understanding of the climate crisis. The First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, a four day event in Washington D.C. which took place from Oct. 24-27 in 1991, was organized by minority climate activists who discussed the climate injustices in their communities brought on by actions from the government. 

Collective action to demand climate justice can be an effective method of bringing about change. (UNSPLASH)

Over three decades later, this summit still has a profound impact on climate justice today. In the climate activism publication Grist, María Paula Rubiano A. wrote that because of this event, “the intersection between race and environmental injustices has been recognized by the federal and state governments.”

More recently, environmental organizations displayed how political action can be influenced through protesting and organizing demonstrations. In September 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden announced he would be establishing an American Climate Corps. This came as a result of three years of community organizing, protesting and coalition building by the environmental and political action organization Sunrise Movement.

Sunrise Movement has campaigned and protested relentlessly for the U.S. government to declare a climate emergency, electoral organizing and the instatement of Green New Deals for communities and schools. Sunrise has succeeded in influencing the passing of Green New Deals in Schools in Boulder, Colorado and Washington D.C. school districts. 

Sparking social advocacy through demonstrations and inspiring cultural change leads to real changes in policy and regulation.

In a system built off the fundamental rule of ‘profit over everything,’ it is necessary to fight operations that lead to exponential profit. It’s easy to feel frustration at overwhelming injustice, but when attending the Federal Reserve Bank protest on Sept. 18, however, all I felt was love — love for fellow activists and love for the cause. Even as an individual attendee, unaffiliated with a specific organization, I felt included immediately. 

My participation and involvement was not only encouraged and fostered, but also necessary to the movement and necessary to the demonstration’s success. We marched together, held beautiful signs created by artist activists, chanted through the streets and locked arms in front of a building that stands as a symbol of capitalism.

Protests have received a negative reputation due to concerns regarding safety and the escalation of violence. While there is certainly a possibility of escalation, this is a rare occurrence; data from the U.S. Crisis Monitor  showed that nearly 95% of protests nationwide are completely peaceful as of August 2020. This data was compiled following the rise in protests and demonstrations from the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

At several of the demonstrations that I have attended in the past five years, however, I have seen families with children and people overall intent on ensuring the safety of those that have gathered; “We keep each other safe,” is a sacred rule echoed throughout marches. 

Occupying the Federal Reserve and eventually getting arrested for doing so allowed protestors to pinpoint a specific problem and draw attention to possible solutions while effectively informing the public with the help of the media. We garnered attention from several major news agencies including NBC New York, as well as countless independent media outlets, all intent on covering the arrests of over 140 climate activists

Sparking social advocacy through demonstrations and inspiring cultural change leads to real changes in policy and regulation. 

Community engagement and participating in activism, no matter how small the scale may be, can lead to promising change. Protests, demonstrations and walk-outs allow engagement within a community and implore people to stand up for what they believe. 

When people care, change is made. This is a call to Fordham students to organize and mobilize. Only so much can be done internally or through social media. There are communities that need you, your voice and your advocacy. It is far healthier to process the grief of the atrocities of social injustices such as climate change everywhere by standing by one another, calling for change.

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