When you think of climate change, it's important to remember that it's not about the politics behind the issue, it's about the people on our planet. That's why I woke up on Sunday morning to march with 400,000 strangers at NYC's People's Climate March who believe in the same thing I do -- climate change is real, and we've got to find a solution.
Originally, I hadn't planned on attending the march this weekend. This was supposed to be a selfish "me" weekend, but after a surprise visit from an old friend on Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to also meet climate change scientist Dr. Robin Bronen. Bronen is the Executive Director of the Alaska Institute for Justice and a senior research scientist at the University of Alaska, where she'd flown in from to attend the New York City march. When she asked me if I was going to be there, I quickly replied with a "Yes, of course!" not wanting to disappoint her, or our planet.
While my reasoning for going was a bit shifty (I was under the spell of a brilliant scientist, after all), Bronen's was much more personal. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she later moved west -- specifically to Anchorage, Alaska where she's been for the past 27 years. There, Bronen has witnessed some of the most devastating effects of climate change firsthand.
"What we're seeing now is community displacement" explained Bronen over a salad somewhere in the East Village. I was unaware of the terminology, so I asked if this was because of mining or drilling. Not so, as Robin explained to me:
Climate change is causing the places where people live to become uninhabitable because of the combination of repeated extreme weather events and slow-ongoing processes such as erosion and sea level rise. As a result, entire communities, as opposed to individuals or households, are being displaced. This is what is happening in Alaska and the South Pacific.
Aside from that, Robin also said that living on the East Coast or the Gulf Coast is becoming riskier as the arctic sea ice decreases in size and sea levels rise. "Artic sea ice is the air conditioner for the planet," which means that we could expect polar vortexes to become much more common. Trust me, nothing hits home more than knowing lower Manhattan could soon be sitting under water and freezing... while you're sitting in lower Manhattan.
But the worst part about what's to come? We can't predict it. We don't know nearly enough about the state of our planet or how soon this all could happen. Everyone's heard the same news spiel repeated over and over on CNN (where it's promptly denied by Fox News) and the message gets lost in the political divide of whether or not climate change is real. It's quite frightening to see someone with a Ph.D. in climate change and no political agenda basically say scientists are unsure when the arctic sea ice will completely disappear. When I asked Robin point blank where she would move -- right now -- to escape the rising sea levels and extreme heat she mentioned, the only thing she could honestly say was, "I don't know."
But the bright side is that while some still deny the existence of global warming -- there are people like Robin, millions of them -- who think something can be done to save our world. On Sunday afternoon, I got to march alongside 400,000 of them. It was awesome and hard to put into words.
After feeling scared about my future and the future of our planet, Sunday reassured me that together, we can find a solution. As we marched together with our signs, t-shirts and battle cries, we called on politicians and regular people alike to stand up for our planet. Climate change is no longer a POLITICAL issue, it is a PEOPLE issue. And we're all in this together.
So when the UN meets this Tuesday to (basically) decide the fate of our planet, let's take a stand of our own. The solution is this: awareness. Talk to a neighbor about using less energy in your home, start carpooling with coworkers, or just get out and march like I did.
It's not a political issue, it's about choosing people over politics. And together, we can take back our freakin' planet!
This post is part of a month-long series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with a variety of events being held in September recognizing the threats posed by climate change. Those events include the UN's Climate Summit 2014 (held Sept. 23, 2014, at UN headquarters in New York) and Climate Week NYC (Sept. 22-28, 2014, throughout New York City). To see all the posts in the series, read here.