Eco-Justice Ministries  

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

Strike - Not a Spectator Sport
distributed 9/20/19 - ©2019

I am ON STRIKE today, which should not be a surprise to you. I've been announcing, endorsing, encouraging and nagging about the Global Climate Strike every week since the end of July.

I am excited and encouraged by this youth-led movement for climate justice. This is far bigger than Greta Thunberg (yes, she is truly outstanding), who a year ago started striking from her school on Fridays, and emboldened other students around the world. A powerful coalition of youth organizations has built a global network of impassioned activists, who have formulated country-specific demands, and mobilized people of all ages for a day -- and a week, and beyond -- of impassioned climate activism.

Their work already has made a difference. More than 170 major news outlets, from CBS News and MSNBC to NPR to the Guardian, have promised to run a week of climate change stories surrounding these events. It has been astounding to see this volume and depth of coverage on a topic that so often is on the journalistic margins. This is a breadth of media impact that I have never seen with previous climate events -- and that bodes well for coverage of next week's UN climate meeting.

In the US, these activist youths have also been a driving force behind the Green New Deal as a congressional initiative, shaking up the staid expectations of national politics. New ground is being broken by this unconventional and dynamic movement.

Today, I'm in downtown Denver, providing support to regional youth with their strike, march and rally. (In particular, I'm taking equipment from my home church to run the sound system for the rally at the Colorado State Capitol.) It is wonderful for me to be "on the sidelines" of today's event, and to have the decisive leadership coming from younger generations -- both up front and behind the scenes. I delight in following their instructions.

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To tap into the power of today's strike events, I want to offer you two very different images. I urge you to take a moment with each one, to feel powerful emotions, and to see how they inspire you to action.

(1) A Plaque at a Former Glacier
As the BBC wrote, "Mourners have gathered in Iceland to commemorate the loss of Okjokull, which has died at the age of about 700." Okjokull, now known just as "Ok," was a glacier, but it has melted to the point where it no longer qualifies for that geological status.

A month ago, in a solemn ceremony, a brass plaque to the future was dedicated with this inscription:

Ok is the first glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.

The plaque was dated August 2019, with a notation of 415 -- the current reading for parts per million of climate warping carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere.

Break away from the numbing flood of hourly headlines to read the BBC story. Look at climate impacts from a geological timescale, and take in the frightening acknowledgement that "we know what is happening and what needs to be done."

(2) A Music Video
Take 90 seconds to watch and hear a music video created for today's Global Climate Strike. This short production has two movements, each with a very different feel. Please listen, but here's a taste of the lyrics:

  • Hauntingly: "We are all your children. If you hear us, join us now."
  • More harshly: "We're gonna strike 'cause the waters are rising. We're gonna strike 'cause our people are dying. We're gonna strike for life and everything we love. We're gonna strike for you, will you strike for us?"

There is truth in a glacier that has melted from the warming climate, and the confession that we know what is happening. There is truth spoken by youth who sing of the need for bold and dramatic action, and who call us to join in their witness.

Take a few moments today to listen to both of those testimonies. Let those profound and disturbing and yet hopeful voices touch your heart and soul.

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Today, around the world, millions (I hope!) will join in the Global Climate Strike.

A strike is not an ordinary protest, asking politicians to hear us. A strike is an act of resistance and disruption. It shakes things up. It demands a response.

A strike is not a spectator sport, where we sit on the sidelines, passively observe, and see what others will do. A strike confronts us. It asks whether we will stand in solidarity with the strikers, or whether we will cross the picket lines to keep up business as usual. A strike is not an abstract event. We are handed a set of demands, and we have to decide how to act.

Some of those who read Eco-Justice Notes have been joining in today's strike. Thank you! Others brought the strike into the worship of their congregations, either last Sunday or next. Thank you!

But, just as this strike is not a spectator sport, it also is not a one-day effort. If this day's activism and witness speaks to us of the urgency of the climate crisis, then our response needs to go beyond "liking" today's Facebook posts. We need to do more.

The youth who have organized today's strike have created an opening for us. They have captured the world's attention, and given legitimacy to climate justice by their simple demand for a livable future. They have broken through some of the polarized political debate, by reminding us that "we are all your children." They have called us to respond: "we're gonna strike for you; will you strike for us?"

Give thanks, today, for the youth who are guiding this powerful new movement for climate justice. Commit, today, to specific ways that you will work with them and for them.


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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