When I arrived at the Sept 20, 2019 Global Climate Strike, my first sight of the crowd lifted my spirits in a way I hadn’t expected. All the images of the planet, most on handmade signs, made me realize that a planetary consciousness is emerging now on a greater scale, especially among the younger generations, an awareness of our oneness with planet Earth and with all the peoples who live here.
I was heartened by the sight of so many schoolchildren, including those who had initiated the event at Philadelphia’s City Hall.
I was pleased to see young people recruiting others into their movement to heal the planet and slow climate change.
It was sobering to listen to 16-year old Sabirah Mahmud, a local high school student who helped organize the event. Her family comes from Bangladesh, a low-lying country experiencing catastrophic flooding due to the rise in sea levels. From the stage in front of City Hall, she told about family members who have died because of toxic pollution. I was glad to see people listening, and learning about what’s happening in a distant place. Although some areas are harder hit right now, climate change is a global event. Because the changes disproportionately affect the poor, addressing climate change is an issue of justice. Conflicts will escalate as resources like arable land and clean water become more limited; addressing climate change is essential to peace on the planet.
I’ve known about global warming for decades. Many years ago I watched a documentary with other members of my Quaker meeting which explained that climate change would be slow until the oceans and forests were saturated and could no longer absorb more greenhouse gasses.
At that point, there would be a rapid rise in these gasses in the atmosphere. Temperatures, which had been rising very slowly, would suddenly rise more rapidly. Then the polar caps would melt. After the glaciers completely dissolve, the rise in temperatures will accelerate even faster.
I have long known that unless we stopped pouring greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, the destabilization of the climate would reach a tipping point when catastrophic events would happen. Nonetheless, it all seemed distant. Modest commitments like the Paris Climate Agreement seemed hopeful. Mostly, however, I was lulled by the pervasive denial in our culture. As a society we rarely talk about climate change. The steps we‘ve taken to curb our emissions have been important, but minor in terms of what is really needed to address the problem. It’s not only those who benefit financially from continuing to pour carbon and methane into the air who are denying what the scientists have been predicting. Whether or not we believe the scientists, almost all of us have been denying what’s happening in a functional way, in terms of how we are living our lives and the causes to which we contribute our time, attention, and resources.
The news that’s been coming out in the past several years has been really shocking.
Record-breaking temperatures all over the globe, year after year for the past decade. Massive forest fires, more furious hurricanes, catastrophic floods, rising oceans. Now scientists are telling us that things are worse than they had predicted. They hadn’t accounted for everything that would happen, such as how much carbon would be released into the air as the arctic permafrost begins to melt. The raging forest fires are accelerating deforestation faster than expected, releasing enormous amounts of carbon that had been safely sequestered in the trees.
The existential anguish of the young people is warranted.
Their future will be dominated by increasingly catastrophic changes, not only in rising temperatures and extreme weather, but in the collapse of food supplies and the economy. The numbers of refugees will continue to rise, not only globally but also within our country, as flooding increases in coastal cities.
There is still time to slow down the rate of these changes. There are still steps we can take to give our children and grandchildren a chance for healthy lives on a beautiful planet.
But in order to do so, our denial must end.
We must address the problem not only at the level of our own consumption and emissions; we must also expose and fight the corporations and businesses that want to keep making money off the destruction of the planet. Economic forces have co-opted our democracy, and addressing climate change requires addressing political corruption.
Even this will not be enough; we must address the problem at its root, which is our alienation from our true nature, both our earthly nature and our divine nature.
Humanity must recognize our true place in the natural world and learn again from the Earth how to live here in a sustainable way.
We also need to reconnect with our spiritual nature, with the Light of God that shines within each of us and which can guide us toward a hopeful future, if we pay attention. Our energy, our intelligence, our resources, our actions, and our prayers must focus on what is needed for us to come back into harmony and to sustain life on Earth. Just as the scientists have not foreseen all the ways that climate change would accelerate, they are also ignorant of some of the ways that we can rise to the challenge, with divine guidance.
I pray that our society, and societies all over the planet, will heed the plea of the children who came out for the Global Climate Strike. I pray that collectively we choose life.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. … This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. —Deuteronomy 30:15, 19-20 (NIV)
Choose Life: Impressions from the Global Climate Strike: If you participated in the global climate strike or paid attention to news reports about it, what did you learn from it? What are your hopes and prayers? What are your intentions related to addressing the causes of climate change?
© 2019 Marcelle Martin
A Guide to Faithfulness Groups and Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey, both by Marcelle Martin, are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. Both books are designed to help individuals and groups explore their spiritual experiences and actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. To order multiple books for a study group, postage free, contact us.
Participating in a faithfulness groups is a powerful practice that enables members to support each other in hearing how God is calling and guiding them, and in being faithful. Attend a free webinar on Thursday evening, October 24 on Faithfulness Groups: An Introduction. 8-9 pm Eastern time. Sponsored by Releasing Ministry Alliance.
More Resources to connect with divine guidance:
Find a Quaker Meeting near you: Quaker Finder
Organizations Involved in Helping to Protect the Earth:
Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) is a grassroots, nonviolent action group including Quakers and others working together for a just and sustainable economy. Read one member’s award-winning memoir about how becoming active with EQAT gave her life new purpose, meaning, and energy: Renewable by Eileen Flanagan.
Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) is a network of North American Friends (Quakers) and other like-minded people who are taking spirit-led action to address the ecological and social crises of the world.
Sunrise Movement Sunrise is a movement of young people dedicated to stopping climate change and creating millions of good jobs in the process. They want to elect leaders that will stand up to special interests and make the health and well-being of people and the planet a priority.
350.org 350 is an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.
Sierra Club The Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.
I joined the climate strike in Edinburgh. The march started very close to my workplace. I came out with colleagues and my homemade sign, which said “Deeds not words” on one side (inspired by reading about the suffragettes, even though I don’t agree with all their actions) and “Lecturers support striking students” on the other. I stood by the side of the road to display that latter side to the marchers, hoping to see some of my students, and that they would see my sign. I got a lot of love for the sign. Students in the crowd (most of whom I didn’t know) would point my sign out to each other and cheer; some gave me fist bumps or high-fives; we exchanged the solidarity salute. Loads of people took a photo.
Having been feeling rather down (about the prospects for actually doing enough in time about climate change), I began to feel elated at the sense of community, and also how my simple sign was so much appreciated – because younger people need to know they are supported by people with some kind of ‘authority’ or ‘status’ (not words I like, but I have to recognise that that’s conferred on me in this arena as a lecturer specialising in human responses to climate change, so need to use it for good to the best of my ability). It was also a lovely sunny warm day (unseasonably so, for Edinburgh, wonder why that could be?).
When everyone had gone past and I’d shown my solidarity with the maximum number of people, I joined the march and sang with Protest in Harmony, a political choir. We got to the Parliament at Holyrood (maybe a mile from the start of the march) two hours after it started. That will give you an idea of the crowd – 20,000 was estimated, which is huge for Edinburgh. It was a brilliant day. Later a student said in an email that it was “awesome” to see me at the climate strike. It was great to see her too – playing in a samba band.
I loved the creativity of all the homemade signs – there were hardly any pre-printed ones (unlike many such events), and more homemade ones than usual.
Dear Rachel, Thank you so much for sharing about the global climate strike in Edinburgh! I’m so glad that as a Professor (as we say over here) you were able to support the students who participated, and in turned that they affirmed you. Thanks for this and all the ways you work to educate about responding to climate change. Love, Marcelle
For me, your post is a wonderful addition to my climate strike experience. The photos are a colorful youthful echo of my own experience at the state capitol of Minnesota, in St. Paul. “WAKE UP!!!” “Mother Nature Bats Last.”
For me, your words accompanying the photos were an even greater balm on my troubled soul. You said, simply and beautifully, what we have both known for years.
I wish I would do that.
The biggest thrill of September 20 for both of us, and Rachel (above), was all the new voices speaking to our social condition in their many different ways. And the matching thrill of being able to stand with them and say “Yes!” But of course that level of slogans on signs is only the crucial start of the process for these children. And the words in your post took the next step.
In the reality I create by seeing it, your post was written for the high school organizers of the Climate Strike. Now that they have pulled off this marvelous event, now that they see themselves standing on the stage of history, they will naturally be asking, “what are we going to do now?”
Your essay is not technical. It speaks from your point of view. And it covers the bases. The symptoms of flooding, fires. The sources of deforestation and greenhouse gasses. The clear statement that things are going to get much worse. Including the multiple injustices.
Denial must end. And then the high schoolers hear from you:
“We also need to reconnect with our spiritual nature, with the Light of God that shines within each of us and which can guide us toward a hopeful future, if we pay attention.”
I wish I would say that. It is not being said nearly enough in public spaces. I understand why, as “religion” has become so toxic in public discourse. But you have said it wonderfully. Thank you.
I hope my inspiration will resonate, and sound forth.
Thank you so much for your attentive and appreciative reading of my blog post and for sharing your own point of view. Your words make me think more about how to reach and share with the young people. I’m grateful!
I just discovered my acquaintance, Daniel Hunter, has just written a 62-page booklet:
Climate Resistance Handbook: Or, I was part of a climate action. Now what?
It’s published by 350.org, with a preface by Greta Tunberg.
It’s free to download, and it’s written in language for upper-grades (and up) Climate Strikers.
You can google it.
Thank you, Richard, for letting me know about this wonderful free online resource, available at https://trainings.350.org/climate-resistance-handbook/
I went to the website and downloaded the 67 page book, which is available in a variety of format. Here is the description of it from the 350.org website:
“The Climate Resistance Handbook brings together a wealth of learnings from the climate justice movement. It starts with breaking social myths about how social movements win. Then dives into campaign tools and frameworks you can use. It closes with how to grow your group and use creative, impactful actions and tactics. This book is full of stories of climate warriors from around the globe and historical movements. It’s filled with practical wisdom and inspiration to make you more effective, more active, and ready for what’s next.”
I am not as articulate as those who have commented before me, but I agree with all that was written. And, I thank you for your message concerning one of the most pressing issues of the day, week, and year.
With love, Homer
Thank you, Homer!
Hey, I know that guy!
I never met you; ever. Ever! How the heck are you doing?
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