Monday, October 6, 2014

They're Marching For You, Baby

In the wee morning hours of Sunday, September 21st, I sat in the living room of a Brooklyn apartment, listening to sounds of car alarms, and police sirens, the shouts of a city right outside the thin glass of the window, the thumping bass through the wall of the apartment next door. My kind and gracious hosts were gone, I was alone, but for two cats and you know, the eight million other people who inhabit New York City at any given moment.
I had to be up and in the subway in less than four hours, and in the preceding three days I had slept about twelve hours, eaten five meals (one of which was two disgusting donuts) and bathed maybe once. I had also struggled to figure out in quick succession how to navigate a completely unknown city without a map, or a smart phone, how to use the transit system, how to even buy a subway pass, what to wear, how it was hot and humid during the day and chilly at night, what scale things were in, where to go. I had met people, spent countless hours hanging out and making friends with complete strangers. It was total sensory overload. My body was exhausted, but operating on autopilot anyway, tired, but wired enough to keep doing whatever I needed to.

I sat there trying to make sense of my experiences, put them down in cohesive notes, decipher notes I had made, write down observations and viewpoints, all while being journalistically objective enough. Instead,  I wrote this post. Messy, emotional, in-cohesive, hopeful, personal.

Not knowing what might happen, I wrote about The People's Climate March as cautiously as I could, not turning too many of the hopes I held into words. But I did hold them. The organizers were hoping for a 100 000 people, the events I went to topped out at under a thousand, but there was a buzz about the city and energy that seemed to manifest at the oddest places. On the subway, people kept asking me about the copy of This Changes Everything I read in the hot, dim light of the underground. Walking around Manhattan, folks on the sidewalks would nod and smile in recognition, as we dashed from workshop to workshop, teach-in to teach-in, girls in bright T-shirts paint under their fingernails, bearded guys carrying messenger bags overflowing with binders, middle-aged women with good postures and tastefully graying hair. We all seemed to learn to recognize people carrying folded banners, a small pin on their lapel, a copy of that book, even in the utter crush of humanity in charcoal suits and stylish black clothing. Everywhere I went someone seemed acknowledge that we were in town for the same reason, a community of strangers converging through subways and over the bridges. So somewhere in my bones, a wild hope that this was actually going to be an epic event, kept growing over those few days.

Early that morning, I got on the subway and rode to Central Park, where a ceremony was being conducted by the good folks of Indigenous Rising. Having only been to the absolutely urban parts of New York, I was so taken aback by the big trees and rolling greens of the park, at first I barely took note of iconic buildings. A group of Buddhists arrived to the West end of the park and set up a meditation space, offering inflatable cushions for anyone interested. I sat still for a long time, trying to calm my nerves and focus. Finally, the welling stream of people, all moving in a single direction like so many determined, colorful ants, towards Columbus Circus and Central Park West both in front of me and behind me broke my concentration.

At that point it was full two hours before the scheduled beginning of the march, but already there were clearly thousands, tens of thousands of people on the move. People wearing costumes, people wearing regalia, people carrying signs, cutting, witty, silly, heart-wrenching statements painstakingly painted on cardboard and plywood, and not just signs, but art installations; enormous puppet representations of that which they were marching against, or to defend, those swooping white paper cranes, the life-preserves of those hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, the giant Globes, the parade of nature spirits two stories high.

On the directions we had been given, the march was divided into six blocks, starting with indigenous folks, followed by youth, solutions, calling out the guilty parties, ending the debate, and everyone else, or the "We Need Everyone"-block. It was supposed to go from 65th up to 86th streets. I was hoping to march in the last contingent, but it quickly became apparent that this hike up twenty or so blocks wasn't going to be quick and easy.

In all directions spread the most fabulous parade you'd have ever seen, a wild display of varied political views, religious beliefs, ethnicities, nations, bioregions, interests, ages, social classes and dreams.

In the front of the march stood Native People from all over the Americas and the world in resplendent attire, heading up an entire block ready to take the Columbus Circle and The Avenue Of The Americas back from the usurpers who had named them. With them marched the celebrity contingent, though I did not know this at the time, puzzling for a moment over a tall, bearded white-looking dude wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap, standing between two elders, looking vaguely like Leonardo DiCaprio training to play Ted Kaczinsky in the Unabomber movie. As I ducked between barricades and the ever-thickening bodies, I did spot Democracy Now's Amy Goodman interviewing Bill McKibben, and suddenly the reality of the day asserted itself in full force. All the rushing and lack of sleep and hot humid days in a loud, crazy new city, had been leading up to this.

Weaving through the crowd, camera in hand, scenes, funny, heart-wrenching, puzzling and delightful unfolded time and time again: A ragtag group of activists juggling in front of a hotel belonging to TV's least photogenic capitalist. An LGBTQ-section of the march somehow cordoned off to one of the side streets, was carrying huge puppets, dressed-to-the-nines and making a young NYPD officer increasingly flustered with their demands to be let through this instant.

A cackle of children blocked the sidewalk twirling and singing, herded by parents wearing T-shirt bearing the words "Mom's Clean Air Force". News crews big and small, were interviewing everyone they could gran, trying to make enough room in the onslaught of loud, moving masses. Tens of people circling huge round banners visible to the helicopters and drones (like the small flying camera-thing kind) flying to and fro in their own circles. A tall man in a white suit, looking for all world like David Lynch's distant cousin, stood  in a glittering cloud of gold and black: a group of people wearing the most fantastical bee-related costumes. A young man carried a sign proclaiming he was marching for Abbie Hoffman.

The NYPD, who earlier in the morning had been stern and rigid, trying to keep people within the barriers, directing and commanding, seemed to grow more accommodating and laxer on the rules and a little more harried in trying to keep the crowds moving. It was becoming clear that there could be many more marchers than the permitted 100 000. Maybe, I thought to myself, as I trudged along on the hot pavement, 150 000, maybe even 200 000...

I caught a glimpse of a familiar looking cedar-bark hat and Northwest Coast-style blanket as I passed, wishing to stop and chat, but swiftly being carried off with the tide of people. I passed a girl I had met and hung-out with the night before, but could only wave and shout over the barricades. Everywhere were people: talking, walking, pushing, texting, dancing, tuning instruments, feeding children, handing out buttons and placards, selling newspapers.

They were environmental legends, pop-culture icons, religious leaders, students, doctors, professors, mothers, grandmothers, dads, union members, artists, farmers, bakers, scientists, politicians, reporters, activists, protest-virgins...

After almost two hours of walking, stopping, photographing, grabbing leaflets, fielding questions and generally starting to feel like the march was going to stretch on forever, I finally popped out right in front of the last block. There, to my delight, I almost immediately ran into my friend and fellow Island-dweller Kai, there with the awe-inspiring climate marchers she would be walking six more weeks to Washington DC. In a group of tens and tens of thousands, it was a great comfort to suddenly see an utterly familiar face. I had known that she would be there, but had no idea whether I would actually be able to find her. She introduced me to her companions, some of whom had been marching for six months, all the way from LA, to New York, and next, to DC. One of the ladies who had done this, is 71-years-old. 

 Having reached my designated block, I visited with Kai and the folks around us. We hung out, people watched, traded stories, listened to the horn-section. I was handed a blank placard and wrote in the blank slot provided: "I'm marching for the Salish Sea-WA folks for climate action & climate justice". Sure it wasn't a work of art, but I was so thrilled to represent some bio-region pride.

The march was supposed to start moving around 11 AM, but by noon it was evident that something was not going as planned. A girl in our group, who receiving's texts informed us that because of the unexpectedly large number of people flooding in ahead, we were standing still.

We made the most of it, talking politics and speculating about the exorbitant-looking apartments towering above us, playing with the kids, discussing courses of action, taking lots of pictures...

By the time the scheduled one o'clock moment of silence came, we were still there waiting to move. A call came down the line that in ten minutes we would fall silent for two minutes, to honor the memory of those already perished because of the impacts of global climate change. After that we were instructed to "sound the climate alarm", in other words to make as much noise as we could, with what means we had.

If you've ever wondered what it sounds like when 400 000 people make noise all at the same time, I'll tell you that it's powerful enough to make windows rattle and your eardrums shake, but that even more powerful, was the silence that preceded that noise, the absence of sound signifying all those people standing together, hands raised and joined, present in the moment, in solidarity with others all around the world, with folks directly effected by that which were there to protest, with people back home who couldn't be there but had our backs. An eerie hush fell over Central Park West and stretched out all the way to the Avenue of The Americas, the silence of so many people replacing the usual traffic and chattering crowds of Central Park West. It was one of the most powerful things I personally have ever experienced.

And then, with the familiar sound of a conch being blown, many of them echoing through the ranks, amid the chaos and the noise, of so many voices shouting, so many horns blasting, so many drums and cups clanging, so much clapping, so much stomping, finally we moved forward.

And once we were moving, we did not stop. A message came down the line that the front end of the march was already reaching the UN plaza and that Bill McKibben had tweeted that we were 310 000! A wall of shouts rose from the crowd and travelled down Central Park West. We could hardly believe it. We could totally believe it.

The rest of the march, the next three hours was like the biggest party I've ever been to. A makeshift village on the move, the size of a middling city. All around us, instant friends, life stories, introductions: "Where are you from?", "Where is the Salish Sea?", "We're from Tacoma!!! We drove across the country.", "Is climate change noticeably effecting Finland?", "Where are you staying?", "What are the issues in your community?". I met people from Chicago, from Vermont, from Florida, California, Oregon, Montana, from Alberta and Vancouver BC, from all of the five boroughs of New York City.

We walked up and down the street, running forward to catch up, or waiting still to merge with an interesting group, meeting different folks, hearing different bands, marveling at different banners...

We exchanged email addresses, water, chocolate, buttons, book recommendations, business cards, and news. One of Reverend Billy's bee-people crowned me with a pink wreath, a grandmother from Grand Rapids gave me tea from her thermos, a New York couple marked good grocery stores in Brooklyn on my subway map, and I'll have a place to stay at a commune if I ever go to Vermont...

We sang. We sang This Land Is Your Land, with all the verses, we sang Rebel Girl (my dream come true!), Pie In The Sky, We Shall Overcome,  (Not) Born In The USA, Oh Say Can You See (The Polluting Factory), we were led to a version of Man On Fire  who's altered lyrics I wish I could remember in their entirety. We shouted the slogans. We chanted demands and witty rhymes. Every twenty or so minutes, a roar would go up and travel down the crowd like some great tsunami of sound, sounding the people's alarm.

The mood was joyful, jubilant, defiant, raucous. It was a parade, a party, a performance, a rally, a gathering, a shindig, a happening. Every adjective and noun came in handy. We all carried our statements on our placards and our hearts on our sleeves.

On the Avenue of The Americas, we hurled insults at the big media buildings and cheered on the students of Bard College, who hung banners from their classroom windows telling us they'd join us after class. What little I saw of the landmarks of New York, came into view suddenly as we marched on. The iconic buildings seemed dwarfed by the river of people flowing by them.

Kai got us into a fancy gallery she used to work at when she lived in NYC, to see the Sebastian Salgado exhibit. It was disorienting and wonderful to step off the hot, loud sticky street for a moment, into a cool quiet gallery, but the images of vast nature, animal scale and traditional lives only echoed the message of the march. Outside, a river of people marched on, crying out to demand the protections of all that those images showed.

And then, after nine hours, it was all over. The crowd had been asked to disperse by the organizers, due to its sheer size, and instead of gathering to party at the UN Plaza, we disappeared into bars and subway stations and churches and colleges, to meetings and other actions, to keep talking and dancing and singing and connecting. And eventually, we traveled back to our respective homes, now having some idea of how proceed and having forged connections the world over.
Was it as magical as it seems, from the newscasts and images and stories? Yes. Was it worth every sleepless night, missed meal, the stress? Was it worth flying across the entire continental United States? Was it worth a depleted immune system and bank account, the confused circadian rhythms? Yes. A thousand times yes. But not for the obvious reasons.

Once the reviews were in, the numbers tallied up to 400 000, once the march made it to the mainstream media's radar and politicians started acknowledging it, suddenly a lot of folks on the fence, the naysayers, the middle-grounders jumped onto the bandwagon. For all the negative, or dismissive  comments I received before this trip, I got lots of head-pats and thank-yous when I returned, many of them completely genuine, but just as many, I feel, were a little bit of misplaced desire to be on the right side of history.

Something important had happened and it had taken everyone by surprise.

People keep telling me that they wish they could have been there, perhaps partly because in hindsight, The People's Climate March has been billed as a historic watershed moment, and who doesn't want to be present at one of those?

And I wish you could have been there too. I wish we could have marched and sang and hooted and stood in silence together.  I wish that everyone I know could experience what it's like to suddenly feel like you have power and a voice, to feel like the powerful and mighty hear what you have to say, and to know that those who oppose you suddenly tremble a little.

But more importantly, I wish that you would realize, that you can be there and you can experience those emotions. That this is the watershed moment. That this is THE PROTEST. It's just starting. The People's Climate March was the alarm, the wake-up call. What happens next depends, not only on the handful (on a global scale) of people who were there, but on everyone who wasn't.

There has never been and there never will be a better opportunity to change the course our countries, societies, communities and the entire planet are on. 

What happens next, will determine the fate of this planet as we know it. 

And I as much as I usually am all about understanding and empathizing with all viewpoints, let me make myself perfectly clear:
It's up to you.

What I've run up against having these conversations, what the comments and the emails in response to my last post, echoed all too often, was "I'm glad that you're doing x, but I can't because of…" Because I don't have the time, the resources, because the reality of global climate change depresses me, because it's hard for me to be in the public sphere, because I don't have like-minded people in my circle. Those are all real, legitimate reasons to not engage in activism. They are also all excuses.

There's a million, or possibly 7 billion perfectly good reasons, why this issue hasn't already captured the moral outrage of most people, the way say, the women's rights movement, or the civil rights movement, or the anti-war movement did in the past. They have to do with the abstract nature of the issue, how all encompassing and therefor depressing it is, in spite of that intangibleness. They also have to do with systemic issues in our society, and ultimately,  with the fact that most of us would rather not be uncomfortable, feel foolish, face that which scares us, so long as that's an option.

I'm not saying that this is the case with you, personally. But if it is, let me make the issue tangible for you, right now.

One of the statements made over and over at the march by folks of all stripes was that they were there for their children, or grandchildren. In the short while that we have discussed climate change in the public sphere we've gone from "preserving the earth for future generations", to preserving it "for our grandchildren and their children's children", to preserving it for"our children". There's a reason why this is the thing that keeps people awake at night.

It's because whether you've looked at any of the available data ever or not, the world your children, or potential future children, or nieces and nephews, or the children of your friends, will grow up in is going to be drastically different from the one we have lived in thus far. That is a tangible thing, that we can all imagine. Unlike the disappearance of a species of nudibranch, or some unknown village being swept into the ocean somewhere where we've never been, we can all picture the potential anguish of the children we know. It's a basic human animal instinct to want to ensure the survival of our young.

And where we are right now, we're not even discussing trying to stop climate change. That is no longer in the realm of possibility. We are merely talking about trying to manage and mitigate the effects of it, so that there's some chance, of seizing the sixth extinction from becoming complete and of stopping the embarrassing fate of possibly exterminating our own species.

It's worse than you think. I say that because if people knew how serious things are, we would all be doing something more than we already are. But, and this is a key point, it is not too late. (We can discuss the different viewpoints on that statement later, but for the purposes of this piece that is my working hypothesis.)

So the time has come, for all of us, not just leaders and activists and people habitually concerned with such matters, to do something about it.

Because in not doing everything we can to avert the disastrous future mapped out for us, we are always making the kinds of statements that you never actually hear people say out loud: 

"I don't care if we destroy this planet, as long as I'm comfortable right now."

"I don't care whether my children have a chance at a life free of chaos, hunger and instability, as long as I can buy cute shit right now."

"I don't give a rat's ass about whether my grandchildren have to become refugees by the time they're my age, so long as I can fly to Europe once a year, to enjoy the  retirement which I so richly earned by working for decades at a job I did not like."

"I don't care if I have to watch a thousand species die out forever, or if my children will have to  live in a world without them, as long as I don't have to face the negative consequences of my actions."

"As long as me and mine are fed and housed and able to purchase consumer goods, I don't care about whether people drown, or starve in third-world countries, because of my actions."

"I don't care that we've eliminated half of the Earth's wildlife in the last forty years, as long as I can keep just living my life." 

Actions, always, speak louder than words, and those statements are what our actions are screaming.

One of the most potent moments of the march for me, was passing by a group of kids, having a grand time, waving handmade signs and wearing costumes hopping and skipping like this was their party, and chanting under the gentle tutelage of their parents: "Your kids! Your kids! Your kids will ask you what you did!" Because they will. I don't have children, so I may never have to answer those questions, but on the off-chance that I will, I'm going to try as hard as I can, if only so that I can tell them I did.

Another common statement that people make to explain their inability to become involved in the climate battle (or any other major issue), is that it's too depressing, or that they want to focus on the positive. Having struggled with those feelings my entire adult life, I completely understand. If you are currently grappling with active depression, reading a bunch of books about the deaths of species and people, or focusing on the potentially terrible fate of the entire planet is probably not the healthiest thing for you to do. But if that is not the case, if the thought of learning the actual facts just fills you with some "negative energy", or a sense of ennui, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to get over it.

If this situation which does not yet directly influence your day to day life, bums you out so hard you can't even bear to hear about it, let alone do something about it, imagine how it must feel to someone who's family struggles with consequences of it, and by proxy our consumption and our choices, daily. That's the reality of a lot of people in the third world. And not just in what we call the third world.

As depressing and emotionally draining as those facts sometimes feel, I personally do not want to state with my (in)actions that:

"I don't care if women in the Philippines have to mourn for their dead children as long as I don't have be bummed out."

As for focusing on the positive, perhaps instead of just re-arranging our chakras and shopping for organic kiwis, we could all take a page from the poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, who read this poem, a letter to her infant daughter, at the Climate Summit. Maybe we too should focus more on positive action, over positive inaction. And we should embrace big action, instead of small. And that maybe we should all expect a little more of ourselves and our capacity to dedicate time, resources and empathy to preserving our common future.

So if you thought this wasn't your problem, you are actually correct. This is not your problem. It's our problem.

This is part one of a two-part post. Part two, which I will publish tonight discusses ideas on what we can all do in our daily lives to help battle global climate change. 

If this post, possibly the harshest and most direct one I've ever written offends you, or feels hurtful in anyway, I apologize and ask that you consider carefully why that might be.  I would love and appreciate any and all of those, or other considerations in the comments section. As an extra perk for those of you brave enough to dare to comment, I'm going to raffle off a copy of  This Changes Everything, among the commentators. The drawing will occur this time next week and commentators to either, or both of these posts will be in the drawing. The more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win. And considering that these posts always garner lots of pageviews and almost no comments, your odds of winning are probably pretty good!

More on the march and global climate action:
democracy now! coverage from the day (extra entry to anyone who can spot me in the crowd ;)
No but seriously, listen to this poem, from which this post takes it's title
The Guardian
The Ny Times
Scientific American
Idle No More
Mother Jones
Watch Disruption the movie

And the winner is, in a strange and wonderful twist of fate and random number generating: Mary!!!!


  1. I'm ready for Part 2. Send me in the right direction.

    1. All right, let me know if any of those directions work. I also wanted to add, but totally ran out of time and space, that including little ones is really important. Not necessarily telling them that world as we know it is on the brink of an abyss ;) but involving them in a way where they grow up feeling like they have power. I think the ingrained sense of powerlessness is a huge part of the inaction.

  2. I was just talking with my honey last night about cloud forest ecosystems and how climate change is now affecting those micro pocket habitats and killing off many of the species that can only survive in those specific environments. Climate change and all its effects just make my heart ache. I try to do my small part, not waste resources etc. but fighting climate change just seems like such a HUGE hurdle, almost insurmountable when you're standing alone as one person. But just reading this, learning that all of you showed up, had the courage and care to do what you all did... it gives me some real solid hope for once that we can REALLY do something about this. Thank you <3

    1. I really think that connecting our small actions to a bigger framework AND continuing to grow those actions is key. It would be wonderful if we just all stopped working for a day and marched in millions to yell at politicians, leaders, industry tycoons and other guilty parties, but in the absence of that, we need to be a groundswell. A small action today, a second one tomorrow and who knows what sort of tidal wave we can make (hint: not the kind that drowns island nations <3)

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your experience Milla! While I wasn't there, I'm also working on a post about what all of "this" means. Is it the beginning of a wave that will crest at something powerful and good before receding? The big question now is what comes next? How do we keep this wave flowing forward and cresting into something meaningful?

    Looking forward to your perspective in part II!

    1. That's awsome Alisha! I really think that it's totally up to everyone to become more active and more vigilant, so that we can grow this movement from the ground up and be ready when big actions happen.

  4. I have This Changes Everything on my library hold list.

    I agree re all of your points. I feel like staying on top of regulatory change seems big and hard to me - and there are less opportunities for action than I'd like. I think reduced consumption, better awareness, more people services, more wildlife services and conservation, LESS PEOPLE, less eating resource-intensive factory farmed animal stuff, less energy usage and better regulations around industry waste will all help.

    1. I know that it can be really frustrating for longtime activists how glacial and non-radical something like this seems, but I also think that keeping it positive and accessible is key to actually building a movement that everyone can get onboard with. People typically don't become radicalized overnight and that's why I feel like we need to lead with the perks and the community and the relatable topics.

      For instance, it was really intriguing to me how NO ONE mentioned not at the convergence or any of the articles the issues of over-population. I think the reason for that is that while the overpopulation in the "developing nations" is taxing on their human systems, the population that's taxing on the environment is actually in the first world and specifically in this country (that's not to say that other nations don't carry huge carbon weight as well). According to a few statistics I've read, the average American mother and a single child use as much resources as more than 250 Bangladeshi children. Shocking. But I think from child-free perspective it's sometimes hard to understand how these kinds of statistics and facts effect those who are parents, or hold values that encourage large families, or even just come from a large family. From a strictly utilitarian point of view, we need to have less kids who have less shit, but that's a surefire way to alienate a lot of the same people we need in this movement.

      Like everything about the climate crises, there's a huge canyon of disconnect that we need to bridge so to speak, not to push people into by telling them the absolute hard facts and expecting them to act accordingly.

      I'm sure you run into this all the damn time being vegan. I'm not one, but just the mere suggestion that one does not eat factory farmed meat, but to compensate is happy to spend $90 on turkey that was hanging out in a field next door the day before, pretty much makes one a gun toting radical from anti-America camp, so I can't imagine what it might be like to discuss these issues with people who aren't on the same page with you.

      I agree about it being hard to venture into the legislative and regulatory fray, but I also feel like finding out what is going on in your immediate community in that arena can be a really easy way into it. For instance, here in the West we have a lot of action around coal transit, and a lot of it is just contacting your representatives and local officials and being present in meetings. It's kind of trudge work, but showing up in meetings really gets the attention of the powers that be because they're not used to it.

      Would love to hear more of your thoughts and modes of action <3 Wish we coulda met, but I'm glad that you're feeling better and it was just a bug.

  5. Thank you for this. As always, your words are beautiful, clear, and meaningful. One of my frustrations with the PCM was its diffuse nature. I've had countless arguments/discussions with friends, family, and coworkers about the value of these kinds of happenings. It's amazing to have an opportunity for people who have felt alone in their struggle for change to see that they are part of a wild, huge, diverse community. That sense of solidarity is incredible and should never be discounted. But is visibility and solidarity always going to translate into action? To real change? Or will people just go home feeling like they did something by marching, by partying, by painting their faces, by making noise? None of those things are wrong or bad. They can be joyful, catalyzing, deeply important! But my fear is that these events will flare up and fizzle out. So, I'm so glad that you are still making a call to action.

    Thank you.

    1. I also felt this. I felt like it would have been nice to hear others' perspectives and how they act to change things.

    2. Thank you for your thoughts m'dear, I'm going to try to answer the questions you pose, because they are ones I feel a lot of people are asking.

      In short my answer is:YES.

      This is of course just my point of view, but I feel like this debate over whether doing something like this is important, what it is means, and how it could have been better or different, is a little redundant. Frankly, a month ago the Climate Movement was much more fragmented, marginal-seeming and almost nonexistent in the sense of being A Movement at all and I think that we need to have one in order to criticize it. The march did that. It showed such a movement a) exists and b) could have real power. Anyone is welcome to argue with this, but as someone who's followed this issue closely for almost two decades, that was not apparent unit that moment. YES there were lots of amazing people doing lots of amazing things, but it was very grassroots. And let me be perfectly clear on this point: GRASSROOTS is where this starts BUT UNLESS WE MAKE THIS GLOBAL MOVEMENT OF ORDINARY PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY THE MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES AND MIDDLE CLASS FOLKS WHO DON'T NECESSARILY CONSIDER THEMSELVES PARTICULARLY ACTIVIST.

      Personally, as frustrating as the diffuse nature of such things can be, I think that the way it was played was actually really smart in terms of PR and getting people from all walks of life to feel like this movement could be theirs. As much as I too personally would have preferred a more radical tone, people do not get radicalized overnight. Had the action been more like flood wall st. as a whole, it could have alienated a lot of the same people we are trying to win over.

      Much of course depends on the course the people and organizations involved take over the next few months, foremost perhaps 350, who was a key organizer of the march and has been working at building a climate movement for years now. It's true that it's entirely possible that they did not have a strategy for what might be their course of action should the numbers of people far exceeded their hopes. I don't really think they can be faulted at that.

      I'm also a firm believer in personal responsibility, in terms of taking charge of one's own activism. Much as it's been hard for me personally (for circumstances I'm not free to discuss in a public forum) to take a more direct part in this campaign before, the call for action all over the world, left me not frustrated but with a strong sense of responsibility for my own part in this campaign and what happens next. As much as we need enormous systemic change, we have to be willing to do our part in it and not wait for some global movement, or political leadership to act.

      I feel like expecting one march to do anything more than START catalyzing people is a lot to ask, because frankly, a month ago the idea of 400 000 people marching for Climate Action, seemed fairly utopian. Movements are not built in a day even if the build-up has been a long time coming.

    3. I also feel like no one has much in the way of real alternatives to what should happen/ what should have happened. Criticism and critical thinking is key to keeping any social movement on point, or as the case may be getting it to a point, but vague criticism is helpful. Like I said before, in my experience the many people who've presented critical opinions before and after the march, have for the most part, not had concrete ideas on what is a better catalyst than a march. Is this march going to change everything? I think I've made it pretty clear that in my opinion that's not the case, but it's a BEGINNING. That is all we needed. The rest will either come or not, but we've made a start. I believe that many of those of us there have gone back to our respective homes with ideas on how to keep on.

      Until someone comes up with something more catalyzing, I'm going to whole-heartedly continue to proliferate the idea that this was an important moment.

      I'd love to hear more of your thoughts.

      Jesse I'm not quite sure I'm understanding your comment? Hear at the march? Hear in connection to it? In the media?

    4. Hahaha! I clearly need sleep. I totally left the main point off my main point which is that without positivity and accessibility we'll never have a REAL ACTUAL MOVEMENT. <3

  6. (My comment disappeared, so I'm posting it again, sorry if it's a repeat)

    I had a full body experience in looking at your photos and reading your words, a re-membering of all the big protests that felt like watersheds...100,000 in SF against the Iraq war, the big Tar Sands last year. But your words and experience take those memories and magnify them by the magnitude of what happened there in NY, and so I am especially grateful for your sharing. I feel honored to experience it vicariously through you.

    Since the march, I have also found myself grateful in an every day sense, because honestly the reason I didn't go (beyond it being absolutely financially impossible) is that I felt too jaded. I've been part of so many big movements, and yet here we still are. I know you understand. But with the 400,000 I feel active hope again, and it is infusing my work and sense of purpose.

    I like the way you put inaction into statements, it's very powerful. And I recognize those voices of "it's too negative", the idea that if we just stay positive and work magic with our super secret thought intentions, somehow things will fix themselves, superman will arrive. Unfortunately, I think that the positive voice of apathy is one in the majority, and telling them to 'get over it' will just plink off their ears, like bad vibes off Wonder Woman's bracelets. The ones who "don't want to be too negative" are the ones that have the poorest adaptation to doing the grief work necessary for facing our global crisis.There's a basic lack of inner tools to navigate "intense" or "dark" feelings, thus the heavy armor of "it's all good". Also, in terms of my own work as an ecopsychologist, these are not the folks to come in to my office. As we've explored in our conversations together, it's the ecoanxiety and earth grief that send 'em in. It's a question amongst my colleagues, of how to change the message so it doesn't fall on deaf ears. One idea is to meet like with like...if it's posi you need, then how about enchantment with forms allegiance and once you've got that, you've got a willing warrior. The other tactic is gentleness, because once the armor of positivity falls off, there's some serious wounding under there, and it helps to have soft arms to catch it. Jubilation helps too, and part of what I saw there in NY, both in your pics, your words, and also in media coverage, is that the whole thing looked like a really fun party. Fun goes a long way in enlisting.

    Looking forward to your future posts. Big love to you. I am so thankful I know you, my ally warrior sister friend. xoxo

    1. Warrior Girl! I'm one hundred percent with you on all of what you have to say. The three-pronged approach that seems the most effective for reaching people is a mix of the positive and the negative, of offering people the facts with the solutions. I feel like other than trying to get people to hear the voices of their children from the future, engaging them in nature and how it's vanishing, is absolutely the right way to go. I feel like there's a growing awareness and anxiety over the coming changes, as they appear more and more rapidly, but also this sense of apathy stemming from the hugeness of those changes.

      I think towing that line of being frank and demanding that people face the facts and offering empowering solutions, is a really hard one, because sometimes frankly I just want to throw up my hands and be like "fuck it! I'm going to just grow veggies and and hide out in my smugness!"

      It seems even just from these comments there are at least two kinds of folks who are really concerned about the issue, some who're not sure at all how to get involved and others who are frustrated with the lack of more radical action. Unifying people of different backgrounds like that can be really challenging and intense, never mind the folks who think that it has noting to do with them.

      It is also a really important point to me that there's so much of this grief and anxiety that is underlaying. I feel like if a movement could tap into that in a positive way, it could really help not with just solving the immediate physical problem, but a variety of the problems, both personal and political, stemming from from that hidden wound.

      I don't know exactly what the right course of action is all of the time, but I do feel like we're on it. Fight on sister <3

  7. I've been looking forward to reading your report and now I'm too tired and brain-blah to respond properly, but I enjoyed reading it! Great pics, too; the one in front of the pterosaur exhibit made me laugh (prescient?!) and the one of the "trumpets" sign with the smiley balloons and the war memorial is brilliant.

    1. Thanks dear, I hope you're feeling better. There were so many funny contradictory images there, being in the heart of a modern city with all these hippies and activists and people in regalia, among all these folks in suits just minding their business. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts when you have the time and energy <3

  8. I'm am so happy to read your post-climate march post, all full of energy and vigour! I do hope no one will be offended, because I really don't think that you've said anything offensive at all. Pretty much all of us could be working harder on this issue. I know I personally used to work with a lot of environmental groups, from quite a young age, but recently haven't been doing as much as I could or should. I live in an oil town these days and everything is here is quite focused on that, with seemingly no other viewpoint. Moving here has certainly had an impact on my engagement with this matter, simply because it's a lonely place to be an activist. Really that's not an excuse to do nothing, and in fact should inspire me to work harder. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction, everyone needs them sometimes!

    1. Thank you for your encouragement, friend <3. I do feel like it's a fine balance one has to strike between these different worlds in trying to compel people to understand that whether they like it or not, they're gonna have to play a part. It's hard to be an activist unless you live in an enclave with an abundance of people who feel exactly as you do. But what I've realized that you also never know who your potential allies might be, unless you put yourself out there. Still, it can be really daunting to feel like you're alone. I have the opposite problem in many ways, where there's a lot of people active in a lot of causes so much so that it can be hard to muster people's interest into ONE MORE CAUSE. People also have a weird passivity because they think that they're already doing enough. I'm really trying to figure out how to best use my resources in this regard. Have courage and keep me posted how you do, lady <3

  9. I've got goosebumps tingling through my body while reading this, Milla. So extraordinary. I am ready to march!


    1. I hope you get to and soon, dear <3

  10. Milla, I've been reading your blogposts since I was 18 (i'm 21 now) and have been so incredibly inspired by your words. I want to thank you for sharing all your stories, especially this one. I feel more confident than ever about my purpose on this earth, and the road I want to travel.

    Emily xx

    1. Wow Emily. I don't even know what to say to that. Except I'm thankful if I've been able to help in anyway and to send you lots of love and hope and courage on your chosen path. I'm sure you'll do grand things <3

  11. Milla dear… I've first read this post in a hurry before going to work - tears of pride, gratitude and hope streaming down my face - and tonight, deeply moved again, but this time shaken and grateful for your frank words.

    It's a fine line between remaining positive in order to be able to act, and being lulled back to peace by our positive feelings.

    I knew this, but somehow you just made it so very clear, right before my eyes.

    You see, when the accident took place in Fukushima, in march 2011, I felt a deep, deep despair welling up in me at the thought of all this deadly poison being heavily spilled in the ocean for weeks, silently affecting every form of life, including the one species that had invented it, starting in (though not limited to) the very country that you would expect to have banned its use for ever.

    It was as if all of my sadness and hopelessness in front of the huge amounts of pollution and destruction going on all over the planet had found a way to overcome my heart, soul, and mind. I cried for days and days, attended every fundraising concert for Japan, felt heavy and stunned for months, and I still can't talk about this catastrophe (which is still going on, by the way) without crying.

    The same thing happened two years ago when I discovered that our ancient, wise and kind protectors, the centuries-old trees of the rainforest, were still being cut for 'profit'. I walked around my apartment sobbing, feeling I was a traitor, myself, to those trees. I still do, because I am not doing what Julia Butterfly Hill did.

    In many ways this despair has stayed with me, deep down - but lately, I became aware that if I could find some actual Positive Solutions that I could either engage or believe in, or help spreading around, it was helping me staying hopeful enough for doing what I was able to do best : make people *see* how beautiful and vulnerable our environment is. Right now. Everywhere.

    This means the Ancient forest on the West Coast, but also the woods all around and inside cities. It means the fish we can't eat anymore, and the dolphins who don't have another option. It means all the birds, the air we breathe, the rivers we pollute every day, even by simply consuming objects that need to be manufactured. It means that every single chicken, pig or beef has a soul.

    I have started to blog about this theme, I have in mind various illustrated stories I want to publish, and so on. I am well aware it is a drop into this poisoned ocean. And we don't have so much time. But I feel it's (at least) a healing gesture, not a despairing one.

    However you are so very right, Milla. It is just not enough, because I can do more than this. On many plans. In many ways.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.


    1. Emmanuelle, I had the exact same reaction to Fukushima and I was also really really sick at the time. I feel you, I really do and I imagine that those feelings will continue to come and go as the world keeps changing. Still, I find that the perfect antidote is to do good and to try. Not necessarily tree-sit, because frankly there aren't enough trees in the world for all of us to sit in, but by doing what comes to you naturally. I can't wait to see how you tie your art into this, I can't wait to see what you come up with. LOVE Sister!

  12. When I read "that we've eliminated half of the Earth's wildlife in the last forty years" I had no idea of this statistic! I am sick to my stomach. About it all, really.
    What a powerful post. I also see a glimmer of hope, improvement and promise, somehow, some way.
    Your images are fantastic! I feel the energy and enthusiasm.

    1. Sending you love, thank you for reading and thank you for standing on our side. We're all in this mess together and there's a lot of work to do.

  13. This post does a great job of covering the WHY. For those of us who don't need motivation, will you please write a post about the HOW? I don't feel like I'll ever be able to do enough to mitigate the damage (if it isn't everyone doing something, then I have to make up for the selfish people of the world's inactions). I drive an electric car, I buy local whenever possible, I grow organic and encourage bees, I support pro-environment initiatives, I get in regular fights with future in-laws who disbelieve climate change...but there must be more action you've learned from this march that I (well, we) can do. Please, tell us (aside from marches) HOW to help.

    1. Beth, thanks so much for commenting and being on the same page. To be totally honest, covering the why is the first step for many and I think it's the most important one. There seems to be, based on people's responses to these issues a couple different camps: the oblivious one's, the vaguely aware ones who don't want to think about it too much and the "it's too late"-camp and I was trying to address a little bit of each of them. The post I wrote here covers some simple actions everyone could and should take, but beyond that there really are endless things one can do. I really think that getting directly involved is really key and connecting local stuff to the bigger picture can carry enormous weight. I'd love to hear what you come up with. Let's fight the good fight <3

  14. Thanks for your post, this is one of the most invigorating, energizing, and provocative pieces on climate change and environmental destruction that I've read recently. I'm with the "wish I could have been there" crowd, too, as I was moving that weekend from DC to New Orleans for a new job. Being back in this fragile, hypersensitive/responsive eco-corner of the US makes these crises feel more real on a daily basis. Wish I could repond in greater depth but I don't have the words right now. Looking forward to part two! - Chloe

    1. Thank you for your reading, I bet there's some awesome things you can get on at New Orleans. Those folks know what's happening. I'd love to hear about what you find there action-wise. Sending you love and good vibes for a new home situations <3

  15. Matafele's poem is extraordinarily haunting, and I want to sit down and show it to everyone I know. That, and both your posts on the march. I have found these two posts to be incredibly useful, direct, exuberant, and yes...INSPIRING. Ever since having my two babies I have not made much time to do research, reading, or even conversing much on the socio-political sphere of life, but i can feel momentum returning. I clicked on many of your links; I get excited, I want to tell people about what I'm reading... and feel the need to research more, to better prepare myself to participate in this conversation. Sometimes the concepts and ideas that are so familiar to you, are overwhelming to me, like "big oil"....I want to know more, I want to know who's doing what and who to boycott... I love the Utah Phillips quote about the killing of the earth, I want to know those names and addresses. Knowledge of nitty gritty details makes me feel more adequately armed in the fight. I have yet to find my angle, I feel outrage on so many levels, not the least of which is the future for my children, but also the future for wilderness and wildlife on this beautiful earth that I take such joy in exploring.

    1. I know sweets, I really just want everyone to hear Kathy perform it, because after that I can't imagine anyone wanting to be like "oh I'm totally happy to keep my high carbon life going, even if it means Matafele will be homeless in 20 years". That's kind of the point of this whole thing: most of us aren't callous, we're just busy and swamped and feeling powerless. I really really recommend reading Naomi's book. It's not the end all, but it lays the bones of our problems bare AND she's a great writer AND she's a parent. Sending love to you and yours.

  16. Thank you for showing a closer look at this march. It's amazing there was not much news coverage on something so important.

    1. THank you for giving it a closer look. There was more coverage than I would have thought, probably because of its sheer size, but not nearly enough of course.

  17. This post was epic - you really did a great job describing your experience of the day which was amazing. I saved this post (and the next) for when I had gathered my thoughts around the previous one and commented back to you on that. So that only took me 3 months... But it hits home harder now, I am happy to say you did not offend me and that I understand and accept the reality of what you say. I'm looking forward to reading the next part now, as I am at a loss for what to do, but ready to do something.