Ahmer Inam felt like being a part of something. The 39-year-old packed his bags and headed from Charlotte to New York City before the third weekend of September to participate in the People's Climate March, the largest single stance against climate change in history. For about seven hours, environmentalists, Hollywood actors, political leaders and performance artists marched through Manhattan to call for global action against climate change. The effects were almost instantaneous. The day of the march — Sunday, Sept. 21 — the Rockefeller family's charitable arm announced it would join about 49 foundations in divesting from 200 major oil and gas companies, according to New York Times.
Days after he returned, Inam talked to CL about why he went, who else was there and how Moral Mondays even made an appearance. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Creative Loafing: Why did you decide to participate in this year's march?
Inam: I knew this was going to be the biggest and largest mobilization that has ever happened on climate-change issues. I wanted to be a part of that. I'm especially passionate about clean water, and with clean water comes all the pollution that is leading to problems. Especially in North Carolina, where coal ash is an issue.
Tell us about your trip up.
I knew Greenpeace and the Sierra Club were taking buses, so I signed up to ride along. I collected donations -- snacks for the trip, etc. -- to do my part. We reached New York at about 7:30 Sunday morning. The people I met on the bus were total strangers, but we became friends. Some were from North Carolina and South Carolina, even Georgia. We shared stories about why we are passionate about environmental issues. Everyone had a story. It was good to learn everyone's perspectives. I'll continue to stay in touch with many through email.
What were your takeaways from the march itself?
I was struck by how diverse the crowd was, and not just ethnically or racially. There were so many religious groups, young people, people in the technology industry, celebrities. The international director of Greenpeace marched with us. There were African bands, Native Americans, folk musicians and performance artists. It wasn't just your typical environmentalists who showed up. The secretary-general of the U.N. even marched.
I know 300,000 people makes for a big group, but who was the message geared toward?
We tend to hear that people don't care about these issues, so I think this was done to prove to governments and global leaders that people do care and we will hold them accountable for their decisions.
About 150 people from Charlotte rode with you. Was the local contingency heard?
That was really interesting. Some of the chants were actually led by local activists. That was pretty awesome. I even recognized some of the chants from Moral Monday protests. North Carolinians were actually leading the march, in a way.