Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Not Going, but Not Silent
distributed 8/22/14 - ©2014

In four weeks, throngs of passionate people will gather in New York City for the People's Climate March.

I will not be there, and I enthusiastically support the March.

I urge those who can reasonably get to NYC to be there for the March on Sunday, September 21. And I urge those who are unable to be there to be visibly and actively supportive where you are.

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The People's Climate March is neither small nor timid. The effort to gather hundreds of thousands of people is being organized by a wonderfully diverse collaboration of over 750 businesses, unions, faith groups, schools, social justice groups, and environmental groups. Their call for participation says, "This is an invitation to change everything."

The March is targeting world leaders who are meeting at the United Nations in late September for a summit on the climate crisis. That summit meeting is an effort by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to break through the failures of previous climate negotiations, and to mobilize governments to act on an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. The summit is a timely and powerful occasion for global citizens to demand action.

The March organizers promise that "We'll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities."

To impact the UN discussions -- to "change everything" -- requires a genuinely mass movement. Eddie Bautista, of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, wrote, "If we can put hundreds of thousands of people in the streets to call for climate justice it could be the shock to the system that we've all been waiting for. It will show politicians that the climate crisis isn't some abstraction, that it's a burning public priority that they must address immediately."

To have hundreds of thousands of advocates marching means that concerned and committed folk will have to travel, will have to be inconvenienced, will have to disrupt schedules and shift priorities. People who say that they care have to act on their beliefs, and go to New York City to be part of the March. Because if the crowds are not there, if the streets are not packed, then the politicians will know that they don't need to act.

If there is any way that you can do it, sign up to join the March, even if it is not convenient for you. Your presence is needed "to change everything."

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I am not going to New York for the March.

I live in Denver, Colorado, which is 1,600 miles from the Big Apple. As I wrestled with the decision, I tried to balance my strong desire to march with my obligation to practice responsible stewardship of my carbon emissions. My personal choice to stay home is rooted in my fixation about modeling the behaviors that are necessary to stabilize the climate. It was not an easy choice.

Staying home does not silence me, though.

  • I am helping to organize help plan the Whistle Stop Rally on Sept. 16th when the "People's Climate Train" comes through Denver on its way to the People's Climate March. We'll have a boisterous crowd at Union Station to greet those coming from the west, and to cheer on those who are boarding the train here. We'll make it known that those making the trip are representing many more of us.

  • For our Colorado constituency, Eco-Justice Ministries is considering a solidarity event on Sunday afternoon, September 21. Please let me know -- soon! -- if you would join us for a public gathering of prayer and witness echoing the message of the March.

  • And I will be writing to many politicians -- President Obama, my US Senators, UN Ambassador Samantha Powers, and others -- to let them know that I support the Marchers.

These acts of support from across the country and around the world are essential, too. The March has increased power and credibility when a second tier of citizens is visible and committed. Michael Albert -- author of "The Trajectory of Change: Activist Strategies for Social Transformation" -- states that "if a sit-in or street battle has no larger, visible, supporting dissident community spread out across the land and from which the ranks of those sitting-in or battling will be replenished and even grow, this poses no serious threat to elites."

Those of us who are not going to New York have an obligation to be visible in supporting the March on our home turf. We need to make it very clear that the folk on NYC streets are not the only ones who are passionate and engaged.

For church pastors who receive Eco-Justice Notes, let me make a special appeal to you. Somehow in your worship on Sunday, September 21, address climate justice and give support to the People's Climate March. Talk about it in the sermon, and lift it up in prayers. Celebrate the constituency from your denomination that will be marching together. Give thanks, by name, for your friends and for people from your community who are representing you at the March.

For all of my readers, in your churches, through the next four weeks and on the 21st, provide opportunities for congregation members to write letters and to voice their demands for global climate action. Let the People's Climate March provide an opportunity to organize and activate in your church.

I am not going to New York City, reluctantly. But I am not silent. If you are not going, commit now to ways that you, too, will be active and engaged at home.

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If you are going to the People's Climate March:

  • Sign up with the march organizers so that you receive updated information.
  • Be in touch with leaders from your denomination so that you can march as part of a church group. New Jersey-based GreenFaith is helping to coordinate a people of faith presence at the March.
  • Be in touch with family, friends, colleagues, your church community, etc., to tell them of your plans and to get their support -- financial, emotional and logistical.

If you are not going:

  • Participate in any local "solidarity events" that are near you, or organize an event.
  • Engage your congregation in support of the March and its goals. See suggestions from GreenFaith on how to become a "Climate March Faith Community"
  • Commit yourself to acts of advocacy related to the March -- letters to the editor, letters to politicians, Facebook postings, etc.
  • Be supportive of those you know who are going to the March -- with finances, logistics, and emotional support.

The People's Climate March is the occasion this year for broad and bold public advocacy for climate justice. Whether you are going or not, use this occasion to act on your convictions.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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