Not centering around one specific or singular issue, the People’s Climate March on Sunday, April 29 in Bellingham unified around environmentalism’s intersectionality with other political and social causes on President Trump’s 100th day in office.
The march’s organizers sought to involve the community in bringing forth climate justice through institutional change.
“For us, when we talk about climate justice, it’s bigger than just planting trees,” Edgar Franks, an organizer with Community to Community Development, said. Franks said it was also about systemic issues.
A satellite march to a protest in Washington D.C., Bellingham’s People’s Climate March brought out hundreds of participants advocating for issues ranging from climate change to Native land rights.
The march was led by a diverse coalition featuring Community to Community Development, the Bellingham NoDAPL Coalition, the Bellingham Racial Justice Coalition, 350 Bellingham and the Western Washington University Blue Group.
The event started at 11 a.m. at Maritime Heritage Park. After a few words from speakers, the march began an hour later, led by members of the Lummi Nation. Following the coastline down State Street, the march continued to Taylor Dock, where it converged with about a dozen kayaktivists and made its way to Boulevard Park.
There were over 300 marches happening around the globe calling attention to the need for climate justice, green jobs and a just transition away from fossil fuels, Franks said. A just transition is a framework used by labor groups to ensure the continued livelihoods of workers as economies transition to sustainable practices, according to the march’s Facebook event page.
Jill Mangaliman, an activist with Got Green in Seattle, believes the institutional practices that perpetuate social inequality are often the same ones that damage the environment.
“As people who identify as environmentalists, we must also stand for our youth and for our community. We must not dispose of our people,” Mangaliman said during a speech at the march’s end in Boulevard Park.
Members of the Lummi Nation, who were at the forefront of the march, used the event to call attention to various issues facing their tribe.
Many stood behind the Lummi cause, including Franks, who aided in their march ceremonies despite not being Lummi himself.
“As immigrants and people living here in Bellingham, we want to do our part to stand in solidarity with the native people,” he said.
While the event addressed a large span of social issues, the political element was readily apparent.
“Politics, I think, is behind all of this—the destruction of the EPA and the rollback of the regulations,” march participant Julianne Adams said.
Alongside signs calling for environmental action, support for the Lummi nation and listening to scientists were others calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. In addition to advocacy, the march was a protest against the current administration.
Junior Sebastian Paige, a computer science major from another university, believes protesting is an important part of a democracy.
“You vote [in elections], but when you’re doing something like this, you’re voting in the eyes of everyone who sees it,” Paige said.
Ultimately, the issues of politics and the environment appear to be inextricably linked for some.
“Humans are a part of the environment and we can’t treat them separately. We have to create an integrated system of sustainability and resilience in this time of climate crisis and different environmental issues,” Caroline Vogl, a sophomore urban planning and sustainable development major, said. “They [politics and the environment] can’t be separate anymore. So this march, I believe, is about both: politics and environment.”
Rounding out the day’s events was a series of speakers rallying for their causes and offering messages of thanks and hope.
To some, the march was simply another stop in a long line of protests going forward.
“It was our first stab at creating this intersectional kind of movement here locally and presenting it in a visual way, not just with the banners, but with the make up of the crowd,” Franks said. “Seeing workers march together with environmentalists, people of color with white people, it’s something you don’t really see here in Bellingham. A lot of people talk about the racism and stuff like that, but today you get to see the unity.”