State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

MPA Students Join Thousands at People’s Climate March

Members of the MPA ESP Class of 2015 pose before joining their fellow New Yorkers on the Brooklyn Bridge on September 9th.

Members of the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy Class of 2015 joined an estimated 400,000 New Yorkers and people from across the globe as members the People’s Climate March on Sunday. The march was organized in advance of the United Nations 2014 Climate Summit, which will take place in New York City on Tuesday. World leaders will gather in New York to address climate change and its impact on our planet.

Student groups mobilized themselves on campus in the weeks prior to the event to raise awareness and participation. On Sept. 9, members of the Environmental and Science Policy MPA program ventured to the Brooklyn Bridge to participate in a promotional event for the Climate March. Designed to bring people together to illuminate the city with the message of the People’s Climate March and to create promotional materials and videos, volunteers and participants were filmed performing a routine and holding illuminated signs for organizers to use to spread awareness.

“I was most blown away by the sheer energy of the 50 odd New Yorkers who gathered to light up Brooklyn Bridge to publicize the People’s Climate March. There were people from all professions, age, and affiliations – all gathered to show public support for a shared course,” said Denis Tan (ESP ’15).

The march in Manhattan brought together more than 1,400 organizations in a call for action from global leaders to address climate change.

MPA ESP student Bo Ra Kim introduced Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs at the March.

For Bo Ra Kim (ESP ’15), her participation in the march was part of a personal journey. A child of Korean immigrants who were arrested in the 1980s for leading demonstrations to fight for a democratic Korean government, Kim has joined the climate change movement as her own way to fight for a better life.

“I realized that my parents set a great example for me in putting their lives on hold to fight the injustices in their country. As I grew up and became aware of the injustices of climate change, I found my cause. I started in this movement, and have I have stayed in the movement because of others with that same desire to correct the injustices of our world today,” she said.

Dozens of MPA-ESP students and alumni, along with hundreds of other Columbia University students joined the march. Stretching through midtown Manhattan, the march also included Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Vice President Al Gore and Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations. Along the 2.2-mile route, marchers walked in waves ranging from community groups, scientists, indigenous groups, families and more.

MPA ESP students gather at the People’s Climate March.

“It was an awe-inspiring moment to be one of 400,000 people collectively calling for action on climate change. And it was made even better by the fact that I was marching with friends and peers who had dedicated themselves to becoming the environmental leaders,” said Joseph Manning (ESP ’15).

For Erin Percifull (ESP ’15), the moment of silence during the march really hit home. “My favorite part of the march was the moment of silence for those most impacted by climate change that took place at 12:58 p.m.,” Percifull said. “The crowd fell completely silent, and then at 1 p.m. a wave of noise and cheers from the crowd, which symbolized ringing the climate alarm, crashed over us like a wave. It gave us goosebumps. Overall it was an amazing experience.”

(This account was edited on Sept. 25 to reflect latest crowd estimates at the march reported by various media.)


Students in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Earth Institute.

Since it began in 2002, the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program has given students the hands-on experience, and the analytical and decision-making tools to implement effective environmental and sustainable management policies. The program’s 682 graduates have advanced to jobs in domestic and international environmental policy, working in government, private and non-profit sectors. Their work involves issues of sustainability, resource use and global change, in fields focused on air, water, climate, energy efficiency, food, agriculture, transportation and waste management. They work as consultants, advisers, project managers, program directors, policy analysts, teachers, researchers, and environmental scientists and engineers.

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