OPINION: An International Perspective of the People's Climate March

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Sarah White is a junior environmental-geoscience major
from Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

On September 21, 2014, more than 400,000 people showed up for the People’s Climate March in New York City to protest against the constant burning of emissions, the thousands of climate refugees around the world, or demanding policy change on a national and global level.

There were numerous marches around the world, including a small but mighty group of 20 gringos and 10 local Costa Ricans, marching in front of the U.S. Embassy on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I was a part of this motley crew. I had chatted nervously with my friend on the bus ride to San José, explaining how cool I thought it was to be going to the big city to march and shout and rabble-rouse.

I had never been to any sort of rally before, and certainly not one in a foreign country. He shook his head and laughed, a seasoned protester within the environmental realm: “The cool thing isn’t protesting or causing a ruckus – the cool thing is that this event, is SO much bigger on a global scale, and we are a part of it.” I felt a little ridiculous attempting to shout “No hay planeta B” or “There is no Planet B” in my amateur Tico accent to mopeds as they zoomed past our small crowd. However, despite the repetitive chants, we were making people slow down, and think about what we were marching for. Overall, the day was a success, and a wonderful international outreach experience.

Throughout the last three weeks, I have investigated Costa Rica on a deeper level – the people, the land, and the fragile ecosystems. Many developing countries in the world, including Costa Rica, lie within the Tropical belt – hotspots for the highest rates of biodiversity, the largest potential for arable land, and the highest rates of poverty. These are the countries we tend to flock to for tourism – but Costa Rica is so much more than a tourist destination. Each year it suffers from changing weather systems, more and more tourists, larger amounts of pollution, and steady rates of deforestation.

Living abroad has allowed me to reflect on my own country and the influence America has on the rest of the world. I forget about those, even in the United States, who live next to industrial plants, or fracking operations – suffering the brunt of pollution while receiving no economical benefits. And as a DePauw student – placed in such a routine system - walking from class to class everyday without thinking about what I am contributing to DePauw University or the Greencastle community. From my time in Costa Rica, I have come to realize how even our smallest actions truly contribute to the world in which we live in. The saying “ it is a small world” has never been more pertinent and true. Now is the time to act – to become more reflective of our daily lives and to take initiative into changing small habits that will promote a positive effect on the rest of the world.