Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Like tens of thousands of Americans this past Saturday I participated in rallies calling on Congress to pass legislation to enable the US to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. The Step It Up website now has a very moving slide show of images of some of the more spectacular of these events. If you went to one of these events in your own hometown, I hope you left feeling as inspired as I did. And if you didn't attend a rally (or even if you did), you really ought to view the organizers' slide show to get a sense of just how many people are demanding national action on climate change and to enjoy the creativity and good spirit they are employing to demand it.
Highlights for me of the day:
1. Speaking to a large group of elementary school children and their parents and neighbors in Norwich, Vermont, just north of here. I've never spoken to a crowd containing people wearing large polar bear suits, or one in which quite so many helium balloons escaped to slowly drift to the very high ceiling. (What do you imagine is more interesting to a small pod of third grade boys - a middle aged lady talking about appreciating the Earth or the giggle-producing vision of a flock of escaping balloons (even if the balloons are imprinted with the image of the Earth?) Actually I am proud to say that I held my own versus the balloons and against the pull of the extremely well-laden cookie table. Even the adorable two-year old with her belly showing who really wanted to share the stage with me didn't completely steal the show.
2.Sitting with my girls leaning on me from either side hearing our senator Bernie Sanders describe the legislation he's sponsoring along with Senator Barbara Boxer. After answering endless questions from a nine-year-old along the lines of "why did President Bush say that" it was a tremendous pleasure to watch them listen to such an articulate and passionate politician in a room of a hundred or so people. I keep telling them that while global warming is a serious issue, there are adults who care, who are acting, both ordinary people and political leaders. This time the caring and the leading were obvious and I didn't have to say a thing.
3. Coming home from the rally in Norwich to harvest greens for a salad from our greenhouse and to plant a second crop of spinach. Little things – like stepping into that greenhouse from cold, gray, snow-covered April into something that felt more like early June – are what convince me that all sorts of pleasures and luxuries await us in the post-fossil fuel world. We may not receive so many plastic wrapped packages of lettuce from California here in Vermont. On the other hand, we'll get to walk down to the greenhouse and harvest the fresh beautiful heads ourselves, or buy them from a neighbor and support our local economies.
4. Later that day, walking a mile or so with my kids and our Hartland neighbors, their assorted signs and excited dogs, catching up on local news and people's lives, meeting the man who just moved into the house across the road, and realizing that every one of these fifty-five people had set aside Saturday chores and commitments because they care and believe they can make a difference.
Two final reflections about Step It Up Day:
Senator Sanders told the Norwich crowd that our job was to keep up the pressure, to continue finding ways to tell Congress they need to make passing strong climate change legislation a top priority. This was a fun and powerful day, and it also raises a question: what's next?
And, as I look back on the day's events I'm moved by the way that a small group of organizers, by providing an outlet for people to act on what they feel and know, were able to release a tremendous and powerful wave of activity. And I'm grateful that the organizers worked so hard to enable that wave and grateful that so many thousands of people leaped into the opportunity they created.