In anticipation of the Climate Marches taking place worldwide tomorrow, April 29th. We’re posting a story of a 2011 Alumna Victoria Wee, who attended the People Climate March in Manhattan in 2014. Good luck to everyone marching tomorrow around the world!
by Victoria Wee, Arctic 2011 alumna
“Yes, we can save what is left.
Yes, we can repair and make amends.
We can reclaim nature and restore ourselves.
There is a bridge at the end of the world.”
– Gus Speth
I stared at these words printed on the back of the shirt in front of me. The young man wearing the shirt shifted to rest his weight on his left leg as he adjusted his grip on the cardboard sign he held high. We were two people among the four hundred thousand that had assembled in New York on September 21 for the largest climate action march in history.
Yes, we can save what is left… Yes, we can repair and make amends…
The quote was a good one, I decided. It captured the urgency, the plea for political action that brought close to half a million people together to march in solidarity through the streets of Manhattan on the eve of the United Nations Climate Summit.
It has been three years since I witnessed climate change in the Arctic with Students on Ice, and three years since I committed myself to doing whatever I could to protect the poles, the barometers of the earth’s health. Since then, I have been lucky enough to have been given opportunities to work through the UN Major Groups system. The Major Groups system represents civil society and non-governmental stakeholders at the level of international negotiations. One key function of the Major Groups is to be the citizen watchdogs of the negotiations as they occur, keeping governments accountable by making recommendations to what is being discussed and by putting pressure on nation states through formal statements when weak or concerning text is in danger of being agreed upon. After tracking negotiations and the Canadian position at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (also Rio+20, UNCSD, and Earth Summit 2012), I became fairly disillusioned by the state of political progress on sustainable development matters. If you were to graph political ambition on an x-y chart, and then draw another line on top to represent the state of environmental decline, the two lines would not be compatible.
Despite the knot in my stomach, I remained active with the UN Environment Programme and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change processes. Some of that work brought me to New York in September to take part in a sharing forum hosted by UN Women and the Mary Robinson Foundation for women leading the way on climate action. I came in from California a day early to join the People’s Climate March on Sunday.
As I walked through Central Park to the designated start place of the march that morning, I heard a buzzing, and then a low roar that grew louder and louder as I drew closer. The march was one of the most uplifting, reaffirming experiences I have ever had, and I imagine this was one of those moments that John Donne was getting at when he wrote about the great bell that tolls for humankind. The voices of half a million people demanding courage from our world leaders is really a beautiful sound.
We can reclaim nature… There is a bridge at the end of the world.
And yeah, you had better keep the frack out of our water too.
Victoria Wee is a SOI Arctic 2011 Expedition alumna and graduated from Stanford University in 2016 with a BS degree in Computer Science. With the support of SOI Victoria joined 130 women leaders in New York at the Leaders’ Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action. Co-hosted by UN Women and the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice , the purpose of the forum was to bring together women leaders across industries to discuss gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment at the centre of the discussions on climate change and sustainable development.
Victoria’s experience on SOI’s Arctic expedition inspired her to pursue educational and leadership opportunities focused on building a sustainable future. Victoria became involved in international environment policy through her role as Engagement Director for We Canada, civil society initiative to strengthen the Canadian policy position for Rio+20. Victoria has served as an advisor to UNEP on youth and environment issues and is an associate of the One Earth Initiative. She is interested in sustainability and technology, and how earth-friendly tech can transform our habits.
SOI is proud to have supported Victoria as a student participant by inspiring the passion for connecting with and protecting our natural world, and to provide alumni support of Victoria as she pursues her goals. We look forward to following her continued success!