I want to start off by saying I have no experience in environmental activism. I am the type of person who tries to keep controversial opinions to herself. I am involved in environmental groups at UVa, but I do not consider myself a mover and shaker by any means. However, on a whim, I decided to take the opportunity to go to New York and be a part of the biggest climate march in history.
- Talk to people.
The bus from UVa to NYC left at 3:30am, so naturally I was late. I took a seat next to a student I had never met. Before I had the chance to fall asleep, he asked me my name, and the conversation began. He told me about his experience as an activist in his home country, how it got so heated that people were killed, and how he was in newspapers twice. His parents sent him to UVa to get away from the conflict in his country. He showed me what real passion for a cause looks like and taught me to be more passionate toward the issues I care about – especially the environment.
- Shout what you believe.
We were all given chants to shout at the march. When the list got sent out, I chuckled to myself. It almost seemed ridiculous to shout these phrases out loud. When I got to the march that quickly changed. Shouts of “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” exploded from my mouth and the mouths of thousands of others. I realized that I should not feel embarrassed to proclaim what I believe when it is something so important.
- Learn from the “radicals”.
I vividly remember a woman loudly promoting veganism. Another marcher scoffed quietly to himself, but the woman came up to him and implored, “How can you even call yourself an environmentalist if you aren’t or won’t even try to be vegan?” The man laughed as she walked away, but she did have a point. Scientifically, being a vegan is one of the best things you can do for the environment. When you close your mind to the ideas of radicals, you close your mind to some of the best options for solving a problem. You do not have to become a “radical” overnight. As for me, I am not a vegan, but I can contribute through slight changes like “meatless Mondays”.
- Take the opportunity.
If I had never signed up for this trip, I would have missed out on one of the best experiences I have ever had. I saw there was one bus ticket left, and I took it. If you see an opportunity like this, take that ticket. You never know how it will change you for the better.