NU students join the People's Climate March
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    Photos by Sam Schumacher / North by Northwestern

    Brandishing colorful posters or wearing Fossil Free NU's iconic neon orange sweatshirts, a small group of environmentally conscious Northwestern students joined about a hundred others marching through Chicago’s Loop and West Loop during rush hour on Wednesday night.

    As part of the People’s Climate Movement’s national day of action, the march was intended to draw attention towards the lack of policy action by local and state governments regarding climate change and other environmental and social issues. The marchers initially met up at Old St. Patrick’s Church, where speakers and organizers rallied the crowd’s energy with chants and tirades against fossil fuel industries which heavily influence environmental policies at both the national and local levels.

    “In the same way that we’re fighting for action at our institution, people are trying to get action by politicians at the global level,” said Weinberg junior Alexander Kirschner, who is involved with Fossil Free NU’s divestment campaign. “If we’re fighting for fossil fuel divestment at Northwestern, we’re propelling the whole movement forward, even though it’s localized. It’s part of thinking globally but acting locally.”

    From the church, marchers stopped traffic along Monroe and Randolph streets as they cheered and waved their posters. Although it wasn’t always clear if cars were honking at the marchers or with them, the participants took it in stride and chanted even louder.

    The march, which was about a mile long, ended at the Thompson Center with a vigil for reflecting on the need for climate justice, or recognition that poor, socio-economically disadvantaged communities across the United States and the world are more likely to suffer from the effects of climate change.

    “Climate change will affect all of us but it will disproportionately affect certain groups. There’s an innate unfairness of burning fossil fuels,” Kirschner said.

    At the vigil, an activist from Chicago’s 10th ward spoke about the effort to ban the storage of petroleum coke, which is a byproduct of oil refining, just a few blocks from residential family homes.

    “We have to sit there and look at these big mountains from our backyards,” the activist said. “My kids grow up six blocks from these mountains of pollution and poison. When the wind blows, our residents are told to go inside because it blows further than eight blocks.” When he noted that the Koch brothers owned the refineries responsible for storing the petroleum coke, the crowd booed loudly at the mention of the billionaires who are heavily incvolved in the fossil fuel industry.

    In February of this year, residents of the 10th ward overwhelmingly voted to ban the storage and handling of petroleum coke within the ward. After the non-binding referendum was passed, major companies such as BP have announced that they will no longer use land in the ward for storing the hazardous waste material.

    At the announcement of this local victory, the dispersing crowd erupted into cheers, celebrating the energy and the power of ordinary citizens to make their voices heard.


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