This weekend I attended an international climate change rally at Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, WA. Somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand of us showed up to support the weekend-long call to action in solidarity with the People’s Climate March in New York City, which happened in advance of the UN Climate Summit occurring this week in the Big Apple (If you want to be inspired by human potential, check out the NY Climate March page and its highlights of the march- over 300,000 people coming together, making the links between climate change and health care, social justice, labor, clean air and water- what a powerful, incredible display of the connectivity of climate change and how it affects all of our lives. I’m so proud of all these folks for showing up- you can show your support for them here).
While our event was probably among the smaller of the more than 2800 solidarity events that occurred in 166 countries around the world, it had to be one of the most beautiful, as we looked out over the Salish Sea on a blazingly bright blue day- and it was certainly an inspiration.
Among our speakers was Chief Reuben George, who is in the above picture. Chief George is Sundance Chief and Member of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation in northern Vancouver, BC. I also heard him speak in Seattle at the Draw the Line rally this past spring (Action 85). He is a powerful speaker and an extraordinary champion for the rights of First Nations people against the onslaught of fossil fuel development that coastal Salish peoples are facing.
A wonderful assortment of people attended the Peace Arch Rally- parents, grandparents, college students, nonprofits, First Nations members, and so many others. We did one of those exercises I always find vaguely embarrassing where you have to stand in a line and hold hands with a bunch of people you don’t know. But I ended up speaking with a lovely Canadian children’s librarian about Canadians’ frustrations with their Prime Minister’s pro-energy policies and hopes for movement on climate change. It seems to me that what is key to the success of this movement is the strategies employed in the New York march and what I am witnessing all around the country- people from all walks of life- librarians, laborers, health care workers, tribal members – are seeing the connections between their lives, their livelihoods, and climate change.
Also speaking at the event was Sarra Tekola, one of the leaders of the Divest UW group, that is trying to push the University of Washington to move its investments out of fossil fuel companies. Several groups at colleges and other organizations and agencies around the country are pushing their institutions to do the same, with growing success. Sarra gave an incredible speech linking many of our current geopolitical crises- drought in subsaharan Africa, the Arab Spring, turmoil in the middle east- to their environmental and climate change actions. Her passion and articulation was amazing to see, and well deserving of the standing ovation she received.
I was lucky enough to sit next to Sarra and a friend of hers from the University on the bus ride up from Seattle. Michael is an undergraduate, a rap artist, a history and philosophy major who had just returned from studying immigration issues in Greece. Sarra is an environmental studies major and hoping to attend graduate school next year in Oceanography. It was SUCH an inspiration to talk to these two young people about their thoughts on climate change, power, and organizing for change. The two of them are so bright, so articulate, and so passionate about understanding our world and changing it for the better. If we could just clone them about a million times, we could solve most of our world problems!!!
So yes- this Action was very much about participating, about showing up and being counted among the millions who are demanding action on climate change. I hope more than anything that this weekend of action inspires movement among our world leadership. But even at a very personal level this weekend was an amazing success, because I was lucky enough to meet people who very well might play important roles in changing our world, and for that I am incredibly grateful.