Ryerson students march in Manhattan ahead of UN climate summit

A dozen Ryerson students joined more than 300,000 activists in New York City on Sunday for the People’s Climate March.

The global march was spearheaded by United Nations Secretary­-General Ban Ki-­moon, who urged governments to “support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution,” according to the event website.

The event took place two days before world leaders were set to gather in the city for Tuesday’s UN Climate Summit.

People’s Climate March organizers hoped to make this the largest protest against climate change in history.

The event was one of almost 3,000 demonstrations that took place on the same day in 166 countries around the world. The 3.5-kilometre route started at Columbus Circle near Central Park and passed through Manhattan.

Toronto’s climate march at Nathan Phillips Square drew an estimated crowd of 3,000 protesters to pressure the Canadian government to take action against global warming.

Students from Ryerson and University of Toronto connected with Toronto 350, a branch of the international environmental movement 350.org, to attend the New York march. Anyone could purchase the trip package, but priority was given to university students.

The trip was not facilitated by Ryerson, and no professors accompanied the students.

“I think Ryerson students wanted to participate because we had a chance to be a part of something bigger and something that matters,” said Claire Stevenson-Blythe, president of the Environment and Urban Sustainability Students’ Association. “This was an opportunity to come out and take a stand against the current reality, and to let the individuals in power know that we care.”

It was the largest and loudest protest Amber Grant, a third-year environment and urban sustainability student, had ever been a part of, but she said it was nothing but peaceful.

Grant said there was a lot of chanting and singing and that the crowd was noticeably diverse, with  protesters who came from Nicaragua, Sweden, Colombia and Panama to join in the historic march.

The Canadian presence was overwhelming, said Grant. She recalled a one-kilometer long stretch of the march devoted to protesting Canadian oilsands development.

On the same same day as the New York march, Ryerson hosted a forum for students, activists and academics to discuss the effects of climate change and rally local support at home.

Toronto 350 hopes that students will continue the fight for climate justice here in Toronto.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Sept. 24, 2014.

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