Back to Top

Changing the Climate

While I was a student at Calvin College, one of the things I both enjoyed and struggled with was learning about different issues that related to international development. I loved being exposed to and being able to do meaningful research about issues such as global health, good partnerships, and environmental sustainability. However, what also made this one of the hardest parts of my academic time at Calvin was the recurring question: “What can I do about these issues?”

I knew that one of the first steps was learning, then praying and asking God for wisdom, and then sitting with the issues and empathizing with the people dealing with them. Sometimes it was easy to empathize because I knew someone or had met someone during my years as a missionary kid that was affected by a particular issue. But what about the people who were half way across the world and were being affected? What could I, as an undergraduate student in a small Christian college, do for those people?

One of the issues that caught my attention was climate change and its impacts on vulnerable communities around the world. From doing research and talking to people that I respect who know a lot more than I do about environmental degradation and climate change, I learned that climate change is a problem and that we need to do something about it. But what could I do? There was that question again.

When I became a fellow at the Office of Social Justice, one of the things that I was most looking forward to was the opportunity to continue to explore this question. So when I was asked if I wanted to travel to New York City to participate in the People’s Climate March, I did not have to think twice about my answer.

The People’s Climate March was a global event--hundreds of thousands of people marched in streets across the world to demand action to end the climate crisis. The march occurred on Sunday, September 21, to coincide with the United Nations Climate Summit held in New York City on September 23. Global leaders gathered at this summit to discuss the effects of climate disruption in their communities and how to work together to address them. One of the goals of the summit was also to pave the way for a climate agreement to emerge from the crucial United Nations meetings that will take place this year in Lima, Peru and next year in Paris, France.      

The video about the march includes the bold letters: WE MADE HISTORY. Over 400,000 people participated in the New York City march. Over 1,574 organizations were represented, and 50,000 college students marched as well. There were 2,646 events that occurred in 162 countries around the globe.

Participating in the march was both a humbling and an empowering experience. It was humbling to be part of such a large demonstration and to realize the scale and complexity of climate crisis and the large number and diversity of people and organizations working on different aspects of the crisis. It was also empowering because being in the midst of such a large gathering of people helped me to realize the power that we have as individuals when we unite and work together to solve a crisis and demand that our global leaders join and strengthen our efforts.

The march for me was a visible and tangible reminder that in order to solve issues that affect people on a global scale we need to unite our efforts and work together. One of my favorite parts of the march was when livestreams of marches occurring at the same time around the world were projected on a big screen on the side of the road. London. Rio de Janeiro. New Delhi. I realized that even the premise of that question that I keep coming back to was preventing me from fully being able to answer it. I should not only be asking what I, as an individual, can do to solve the issues I learn about. I should also be asking what efforts I can join forces with to be more effective in addressing those issues.

As I was marching, I was also struck by the diversity of people marching and the reasons why they were marching. Fill-in-the-blank signs were handed out that said, “Today, I am marching for…” and people filled in the box. One reason I kept seeing over and over again was “my kids” and “my grandchildren”. Others wrote more abstract reasons like “the future.” As I received a sign to fill out, I started thinking about the reasons why it was important for me to be at the march, representing not only myself but also a Christian voice and the Office of Social Justice.       

Before the march started, a group of Christians gathered in Central Park to participate in a prayer service. The liturgy made me realize that one of the reasons it was so important for me to be at the march is that I was able to show others that as a Christian I not only care about the environment because it is part of God’s creation, but also because caring for the environment is part of caring for my neighbor. Dorothy Boorse, a professor of biology at Gordon College, shared with us that she has observed a change in attitude. People who used to say that they did not care about the environment because their focus was on people now see the deep connections between the two.

I have a confession to make: I used to be one of those people who thought that I did not have the time to care about the environment and climate change because I was too busy caring for people and those in situations of poverty. However, after working in Nicaragua and learning about the effects of climate change on farmers there and then learning that what I had seen in Nicaragua is a common theme throughout the world, I can now resonate with one of the signs I saw at the march that read “Climate Action = Loving our Neighbors.” I agree with Prof. Boorse when she said that “it is important for Christians to be a voice in the public square on the issues that matter. Climate change and environmental degradation is one such issue.” As Christians, we bring the hope to overwhelming tasks like addressing the climate crisis that our efforts are part of bringing the kingdom of God and the flourishing of all creation on earth.

I want to continue to challenge global leaders to take action about the climate crisis as I challenge myself, my friends, and my community to take action as well.


The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.