Columns, Opinion

Welcome to the Greenhouse: Boston Common climate rally last week proves why we are still here

It was one of the warmest days of the year so far, so I did not mind walking around the Boston Common to find the group of activists that were there protesting climate change two Fridays ago. The sunny day stood in stark contrast to the protest I attended in the same spot last semester during a rainstorm. 

This rally was hosted by the Boston Climate Action Network in collaboration with 350 Massachusetts, as well as other student and non-student, climate change organizations.

The activists, holding painted signs and megaphones, milled around in the sunshine across the street from the Massachusetts State House. I heard repetitions of familiar chants — like, “People, not profit” — fill the air. Extinction Rebellion’s Red Rebel Brigade, a performative climate activist group with roots in the circus, walked slowly around the crowd with their red-cloaked arms raised.

I asked several of the activists at the rally why they had come to protest that day. Isabella Watson, a Boston University student and member of the Boston Climate Action Network, answered me simply.

“I want to keep living,” Watson said. They laughed, and then elaborated. “I feel like spaces like this [protest] are really where people get inspired and motivated. You can’t do this alone.”

Hessann Farooqi, a BU student and member of the Student Government, told me that climate justice is an issue he holds close to the heart.

“It’s always the most energizing and inspiring thing to be around so many people from all these different generations that are fighting for the exact same thing,” he said. 

However, Farooqi added that it was, “Both inspiring and a little frustrating to hear from some of the older speakers who’ve been in this fight for a long time. You hear folks that were doing this [same thing] 20, 30 years ago… but in many ways climate change has gotten worse since then. We’ve made some victories, we’ve made some progress, but the problems are still astounding. That can be very demoralizing.”

Part of me felt demoralized too, chanting the same climate phrases I have for years alongside my fellow protesters. It is easy to feel burnt out in a movement that screeches to a halt when world leaders get involved. However, that Friday in the Boston Common demonstrated that we were all still there, because so many of us care about our future and desperately want to show it whenever and wherever given the chance. The only thing more demoralizing than attending climate change protests for years on end is not attending them. We go because we care, so we must.

climate activism
An activist wears clothing and holds signs in support of climate justice during a rally at the Boston Common March 25. Fiona Broadie writes about the importance of having hope and continuing to support the climate movement despite losing steam from a lack of change. COLIN BOYD/DFP STAFF

Going to climate change protests does more than inspire yourself and your fellow activists. It has the necessary effect of showing government officials that we still care, and refuse to stop caring. 

Eileen Ryan, an activist from Watertown, gave me advice for young climate activists who are wondering how to get more involved with the movement.

“The most important thing is coming together, and community with other people. Find an organization that works for you. The Sunrise Movement is amazing for young people,” Ryan said.

If young activists should take anything from older activists at climate protests — it’s hope. They have not given up on protests as effective action. Rallies like this one are visual indicators to the people around us and the government that the movement has not lost steam.


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