Marching for change

The first few months of 2017 have seen an increase in the amount of marches, protests, and activist movements in the U.S. and across the world.  The Women’s March on Jan. 21 marked the largest single-day protests in U.S. history, according to the Atlantic. Ever since then, activism has increased significantly surrounding a variety of issues, especially climate change, immigration, and women’s rights.

Several USD students have noticed these growing sentiments and have chosen to take part in some of the marches and protests which have occurred in the San Diego area.

Photo courtesy of Elessar Brugger

On April 29, the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency, hundreds of San Diegans took to the streets of Downtown San Diego. Protesters, including several University of San Diego students, went to protest the current administration’s stance on climate change and to raise awareness for a range of environmental issues.

The People’s Climate March was organized in conjunction with similar movements in several cities across the country, most notably Washington D.C. Tens of thousands of concerned citizens came out to make their voices heard. Later that night, a group of USD students gathered to march on campus in what became known as the March for Love.

Sophomore Kiana Lindsay is an environmental science major who hopes to work with the UN Environment Programme. Lindsay attended the March for Science this past Earth Day on April 22 to march in solidarity with protesters in Washington D.C. She said she saw the march as a chance to express her passions and to advocate for science.

“I wanted to get out there and tell everyone that what we as science students study really is important, and it really is going to matter more than people might think,” Lindsay said. “It feels really invalidating when people in power in D.C. suggest that scientific knowledge is somehow unimportant or fake.”

The Earth Day march gathered crowds of more than 15,000 and featured speeches from several local scientists at the civic center. It was an indication of just how much San Diegans are concerned about climate change.  Last year, the city of San Diego made national headlines when it unanimously passed its Climate Action Plan with the goal of converting the region completely to renewable energy by the year 2035, according to KPBS.

James Bolender of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at USD said that he is confident that San Diego will continue in its progress on climate change going forward.

“In terms of jobs in the biotech and renewable energy industries, I don’t envision graduates facing too many problems finding jobs here locally,” Bolender said.

However, the same might not necessarily be said for lawmakers in Washington. According to The New York Times, on May 7, President Trump signed an executive order which rolled back many climate change policies and replaced members of a scientific review board with corporate leaders, many from the coal industry.

Lindsay explained how recent budget cuts and restructuring have had a direct impact on some of her peers in the science department.

“I have friends who are graduating and having trouble finding the jobs they’ve always wanted because government agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have been freezing their hiring and reducing their budgets,” Lindsay said. “Aside from job opportunities, it’s just scary when we have leaders who directly deny and oppose science in order to please corporate interests.”

On April 29, San Diegans gathered for the People’s Climate March to once again resist federal climate change negligence and raise awareness in the San Diego community. While emphasizing the importance of support for scientific research, this march also revealed the social impacts of climate change.

Before the march kicked off at Waterfront Park, the crowd sat in silence for an opening blessing and speech made by the Mission Indians of the Kumeyaay Nation. This invocation touched on the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy and how to move forward.

Sophomore Hannah Craig was in the audience and particularly enjoyed this moment of the march.

“The Kumeyaay tribe members [said] a prayer in their native language, which I think really stood as a reminder of how sacred our natural resources truly are,” Craig said. “People have to realize that the pipeline issue isn’t over, and there’s still so much that needs to be done to ensure that protected lands stay protected.”

Following the speeches, the crowd started off toward Broadway holding homemade signs and chanting slogans. Drivers honked to show their support for the march chanting “Dismiss science expect defiance” and “System change not climate change.” Among those gathered were members of the Sierra Club, Indivisible, and the Surfrider Foundation.

Not all of the marchers considered themselves official activists.  The crowd also consisted of families pushing strollers and several students from University of California, San Diego, San Diego State University, and USD.

Sophomore Thalia Alavi said she came out just to be a part of the scene.

“I wouldn’t consider myself an activist, but I totally support all of the causes represented here,” Alavi said. “The fact that we have so many people who don’t believe in climate change in this country is just crazy to me, and I wanna be a part of the solution and not the problem.”

Sophomore Stephen Jordan took the trolley to the march with a group of about 25 USD students after creating signs at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. For him, the decision to take part in the scene was more about unity in the face of hatred than it was about environmental activism.

“The fear and hate I’ve witnessed in the media and across the country has made me passionate about changing the divisive culture we live in today,” Jordan said. “Some people feel like these issues have become so tense that they can’t even talk, so we need to make it so that people are able to comfortably dialogue and disagree with each other.”

Jordan created and organized the on-campus March for Love, which occurred at the end of last month.  In promoting the event, Stephen emphasized that the march was meant to foster unity in the campus community rather than push a particular political stance.

“I just wanted to bring people together in this time,” Jordan said. “I think it’s fulfilling and heartwarming to stand side-by-side with those we agree with and those we might disagree with.”

For students who want an escape from the constant reminders of controversy and conflict in the media, events like “Let’s Share the Love” club’s “March for Love” provide a sense of campus unity. Jordan said that he created the club to combat hatred and to make it possible for people with differing viewpoints to come together.

Glenn McDonell | Contributor