This guest post was written by Gavain U’Prichard . Gavain, his wife Dana, and their young children, are walking the roads of American to call attention to climate change and the number 350. You can follow their journey at www.pacingtheplanet.org.
When my wife (then five weeks pregnant) and I read, with dismay, Bill McKibben’s article, “The Terrifying New Math of Climate Change”, this summer, we realized that everything that we have already been doing is simply not enough. We had known about climate change but like most people, we had the impression that there was a relatively comfortable buffer of time between us and that probable future. We had been hoping that we, as cultural activists, would have time to sway the direction of humanity by embodying change and modeling a more joyous way of living.
My wife and I met at an intentional community and eco-village in Oregon. We both had been independently led to investigate radical forms of community collaboration, to practice voluntary simplicity, to lessen our footprint on the local and global ecology, and to appreciate the intricacy of life as its own worthy entertainment, and in its own wisdom.
In 2011, we moved to rural Northeast Missouri, bought an old house, and set about repairing it. Soon, our youngest child (of four) was born at home. We made our home as self-sufficient as we could, so we could live very cheaply as well as thrive in the grace of green living. We cooked and heated with wood, reclaimed water from our roof for use in laundry and gardening, washed and dried our clothing by hand, heated our water with sun or wood(seasonally), and had been transitioning our entire electric draw to come from a wind turbine, and a small solar array. We were raising heritage breed waterfowl for eggs and meat, and learning to hunt deer (so abundant in our area) for venison in our diet. We had been setting up a home-base from which we would be able to offer acts of service to others in our locality, engage with the nearby intentional communities, and create art and education programs about reviving our human sense of wonder, all the while parenting and homesteading.
Then, the dry winter turned into the abnormally warm spring, which blossomed grotesquely into the heatwaves of June and July, 2012, bringing the worst drought in anyone’s living memory. Our garden withered, as did everyone else’s around us. Lawns turned brown, and we watched the corn and soy crops in our county die. An unnatural silence lingered in the wild places for much of this summer. McKibben’s article slapped us awake: this mega-drought was the first stroke of the brute force of extreme climate change, and undoubtedly, the gentlest kind of impact we can expect in our future.
Our family realized that we would fail to address the momentous implications of the recent climate science if we just continued to dwell in the personal obscurity of our own lives, our day-to-day, our work, our enjoyments. We needed to do something. We wanted to illustrate with our own lives that the occasion calls for putting down our routines, leaving our old ways pristinely and utterly, the way the old city of Pompeii was left frozen in ash, tables still set, business abandoned in mid-stride. We’re called to step outside, meet each other eye-to-eye, and acknowledge the extraordinary situation that anthropogenic global warming has put us in.
Our family decided to walk. We would take our children on the road, and pace the back lanes and rural highways of America, showing people how we had just stopped what we were doing, so we could pay attention and find what solutions to the global warming problem are left us. We built a hand-pulled wagon for our young children to ride or nap in as we walk, and covered it Conestoga-style. Later, we added large, Amish-built carriage wheels to it — the wagon is now quite spectacular, going down the road. We found a man selling small pony carts that he makes by hand, and bought a used one, which we repainted and outfitted with its own canopy. That canopy is emblazoned with “350.org”, and the first wagon bears the name of our project: Pacing the Planet. A message decoupaged to the side also warns those who watch pass us from the roadside, or while driving: Climate Catastrophe Cometh.
The more we have researched the current state of affairs, going to the original peer-reviewed literature, the more true this statement seems to us. So our family is walking…it is the most impactful action we have been able to come up with so far! The imperative is to somehow convey to many, many more people that we have a rendezvous, in this next handful of years, with the kind of moment that alters the course of Earth’s history for thousands (if not millions) of years — a moment like the one in which a comet collided with Earth, annihilated most of the dinosaurs, and sent earth life careening in very different direction. As we endeavor to create an impression by which many people are compelled to pause and think, we also acknowledge that we need to offer solid information about the changes which our planet is undergoing, and the paths of hope which still exist… That is why we have been giving presentations on the latest science available about global warming to area universities, community centers, and intentional communities. It’s why we’re entering ourselves into local parades –tossing informative flier scrolls instead of candy — so that we can help start the urgent national conversation.
We’re walking with donkeys, now. They are emissaries for the animal world, and we hope that they make our presence more visually intriguing as they help us carry our supplies. We’re focusing on Iowa and Missouri, both swing states in in the run-up to the election, so we can get practice for a longer-distance journey starting this spring, after the birth of our fifth child. (And in case you are wondering…especially in light of our new awareness of climate change: No, we will definitely not be having any further children!)
Please join us. 350.org consists of the people sitting in the passenger seat of the speeding car, who have realized that the driver is asleep, or dead, or possessed; whatever the case may be, the car is headed for an abyss. We grab the wheel, and we turn it as best as we can from the passenger seat– turn it hard. Maybe we’ll jump into the driver’s seat at the last moment. However it is done, it takes many hands to turn the wheel of the ship of state.
At Pacing the Planet, we are still needing support, as we near the end of our fund-raising for the first part of our campaign on We the Trees, a permaculture crowd-funding site. We pray for a throng of people who will join us, literally or symbolically, and say: we will not continue our business as usual. We will not go gently into the nightmare of cataclysmic climate change. If you want to keep tabs on the latest information about our project, follow us at www.pacingtheplanet.org.
The following is an open letter co-signed by 350.org and 29 other environmental and social justice organizations, in support of the Tar Sands Blockade, currently underway in East Texas.
As we write, our friends with the Tar Sands Blockade are blocking construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline in the woods of Texas. For the past six months they have built a movement of climate activists, rural landowners, Texans, Oklahomans and people from all over the country to fiercely resist it. For two weeks, they have captured the imagination of the world with a daring tree- sit and bold ground actions near Winnsboro, TX that have delayed TransCanada’s operations.
TransCanada has responded by allowing its employees to operate their heavy machines with reckless disregard for the safety of protestors and tree-sitters. Police have responded with brutal means such as pepper-spray and Tasers against peaceful protestors. Prosecutors have responded with elevated charges.
It is clear what is at stake. NASA’s leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline, “a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” If all the carbon stored in the Canadian tar sands is released into the earth’s atmosphere it will mean “game over” for the planet.
In 2011, we saw the Tar Sands Action galvanize environmental and social justice communities in an unprecedented show of unity during the sit-ins in front of the White House. Every day members of Indigenous communities, faith communities, labor communities, anti-mountaintop removal movements, anti-fracking movements and many more stepped forward and put their bodies on the line in solidarity. In the year since, we have witnessed people from the Lakota nation in South Dakota and from Moscow, Idaho putting their bodies in roads and highways blocking large transport trucks carrying oil refining equipment to develop further tar sands extraction. Now, the Tar Sands Blockade has taken the next logical step confronting climate change.
If we are determined to prevent the pursuit of extreme energy from destroying our communities, natural systems and climate, then peaceful, yet confrontational, protests like the Tar Sands Blockade are necessary actions for change.
Let us be clear: there is not an inch of daylight in between us and those blocking construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. We stand with them as we’ve stood with those fighting mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, those defending old growth forests in Cascadia and those challenging nuclear power across this country.
We stand in solidarity with those who stand up for us all.
Alliance for Appalachia
Alliance of Community Trainers (ACT)
Center for Biological Diversity
Communities for a Better Environment
Community to Community
Council of Canadians
Energy Action Coalition
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
Global Justice Ecology Project
Grassroots Global Justice
Indigenous Environmental Network
Missourians for Empowerment and Reform (MORE)
Occupy the Pipeline
Radical Action for Mountain Peoples’ Survival (RAMPS)
This blog post was written by our friend Naima von Ritter. She came and enthusiastically participated in the South Asia training workshop and decided to put her experience down in words for us. She is a member of the International Youth Climate Movement (IYCM) and currently working at the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) office in Dhaka as a short-term gender consultant.
Last week, I had the absolute pleasure to attend a very inspiring event. Between September 25th and September 28th, the British Council of Dhaka hosted an event called Climate Change Training for Trainers (T4T) South Asia. Organized by 350.org and the Bangladeshi Youth Movement for Climate (BYMC), the event included twenty five motivated youth from seven different south Asian countries, namely Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bhutan, Maldives and Bangladesh. (Unfortunately, our friends from Afghanistan could not make it due to visa issues. L). Chaity and Ayesha two enthusiastic trainers from the 350.org office in India led the four-day event as part of 350’s mission to “build a global movement to solve the climate crisis.”
The training included various sessions on six different themes including: telling your story, building a movement, building a campaign, and how to use media effectively. Participants also worked on creative art to get spread messages on a local level. For many, it was the first time interacting with youth from other South Asian countries. To be able to share experiences and work together proved very helpful and motivating. As one participant iterated, “we really enjoyed and learned a lot from the multi-cultural learning.” The event was really “a great platform for young people of South Asia to gather, interact, and learn.”
But the learning and bonding was not limited only to the training sessions during the day. Every evening, the participants bonded over dinner, visits to the Parliament and Old Dhaka, shopping, and sing-alongs. One evening I stayed with the group to go to dinner. We piled into Bangladesh’s most common form of transportation: rickshaws. And this is an image I will never forget: thirteen Rickshaws (local transport) weaving through Dhaka’s (horrible) traffic with South Asian youth shouting “CLIMATE ACTION”. Every time we stopped, we got all sorts of strange looks from people. But none of us cared. We were all yelling for something we all believed in.
The closing ceremony, which included speakers from British Council, Action Aid, Oxfam GB, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Government of Bangladesh, was also a resounding success. As one speaker correctly mentioned, this was a youth-led, youth focused workshop. The closing ceremony equally reflected this young energy. Audience members were taught how to “twinkle” their hands in their air whenever a speaker said something they agreed with. This action, which the participants used throughout the entire workshop, is meant to show support for the speaker without interrupting him/her. In addition, a delegate from each country got up between each speech and led the audience in shouting “CLIMATE ACTION” in his/her own country’s language. This was a fabulous touch and kept the ceremony lively and engaging.
BYMC members are excited after successfully finished their historic journey and dreaming to organize a national level camp next year to spread the movement within the country and guests are already commit to support them in future.
In the words of the participants, T4TSouth Asia was “amazing,” and “beyond expectations.” They will take the tools and skills learned here back to their countries to continue building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. As Bhagya, a participant from Sri Lanka said, “thanks to T4T South Asia, we are now inspired to inspire.”
— asks Olga from Kyiv, Ukraine, thinking about the fracking plans of the national government. While the officials give a carte blanche to Shell and Chevron to drill into the beautiful Ukrainian land, the citizens become more and more concerned. What is presented as a way towards country’s energy independence seems to cost too much for local people and nature — say the activists who recently organized two events for the Global Frackdown campaign. Here is Olga’s prospect on the situation, from the very battlefront.
After our improvised performance in Kyiv, devoted to the global day of fight against shale gas fracking, several officials came out of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Ukraine. They said they appreciated our activity and awareness of the problem and one of them asked for a word. An expert from the Union of Ukrainian Geologists, Pavlo Zagorodnyuk, spoke about exciting opportunity of deep shale gas extraction. Mr. Zagorodnyuk emphasized, that Shell and Chevron are risking their time and money to investigate if the Ukrainian shale gas deposit is rich enough for fracking.
I still wonder – should I really care more about Shell’s and Chevron’s financial stability? As for me, the situation is completely opposite. I don’t believe that shale gas extraction would bring Ukraine energy independence from Russia.