Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why March? A New Vision

When I asked the question "Why March?" three weeks ago, my vision was focused on the entire planet. I was looking for a glimpse of how traveling from Arkansas to New York City for the People's Climate March (PCM) might help "galvanize and catalyze action" at the UN Climate Summit. What decisive steps in reducing carbon emissions worldwide would likely come as a result? Perhaps such a global vision was too narrow. Maybe what I was and am looking for is a broader perspective that appreciates this opportunity to arouse action here at home.

Here is the vision now emerging.
The Arkansas bus trip to the People's Climate March shall be:


The Arkansas bus trip is clearly a collaborative effort, not just between bus co-captains, but among members of the team we are building and the organizations standing behind us and working with us: the Omni Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology, the Sierra Club (Ozark Headwaters and Central Arkansas Groups), Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light, to name a few. And honestly, no one and no group will be left out. As the PCM organizers state it, "To change everything, we need everyone on board." Our goal is to expand the number of Arkansans working toward good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.


Our intention is to recruit passengers of diverse age, gender, race, ethnicity, economic status, religious affiliation, and life experiences. This is to include students, those in a variety of jobs, professionals, and unemployed. Some participants may be relatively new to environmental issues, others old hands, and still others personally affected by the issues. For some, activism will have been a way of life, for others the march will be entirely new. I daresay it will be a unique experience for all. In fact, YOU too can sign up here. Our goal is to broaden the group/groups of Arkansans working keep our air and water safe and the Earth livable.


Participating in the PCM will be an education in itself, but the bus is equipped with WiFi and DVD player. We'll show Bill McKibben's Do the Math, Velcrow Ripper's Occupy Love, and other documentaries. Additionally, we plan a stop at the Climate Change Science Institute (Oak Ridge National Labs) to spend time with their experts. And there will be plenty of time for discussion on the bus. Then we wish to bring this knowledge back to those who have sent us. Our goal is to teach ourselves and deepen the level of understanding among our friends and neighbors.


As if participating in "the largest climate march in history" would not be inspiring enough, the plan as we march through Times Square is for video feeds from around the world to be shown on the massive screens. After the march we want to allow passengers who so wish to participate in the Religions of Earth multi-faith celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine before returning home. Our goal is to be inspired and to inspire each other to believe in a better world.


What would a bus trip be without music and games and snacks and laughter? Our goal is to celebrate life.


The cost of the bus trip per person is reasonable and many passengers will choose to pay their own way. We have also received a couple substantial donations and several sponsoring donations to help low-income individuals afford to come with us. But we think it would be great if a significant portion of the expense could be crowdfunded. What this means is many (up to 1,000) small donations (of $3-30). I am using my birthday wish list as an excuse to set up a crowdfunding page if you would like to be a part of this. Our goal is to allow everyone to participate as they are able.

Awareness Raising

(1) Before the trip, publicizing the event, recruiting passengers, and soliciting donations will help inform many across the state of these events who otherwise would not have heard. (2) As travelers and marchers, we will raise our own level of interest and understanding, and we will send back live tweets, text messages, and social media postings to those at home. (3) After the trip, we plan to document our experiences and publish them online and in the media. Our goal is to raise public awareness of issues throughout Arkansas and to inspire increasing public participation in their solutions.

Notice a Theme?

The People's Climate March is all about people. Our goals are to expand, broaden, deepen, and celebrate our experience as community. May it be so.

Three weeks ago I was simply one person seeking a way to become part of the largest climate march in history. Would I travel by myself, or could I find a group from around here to tag along with? Then to my surprise I found myself volunteering to become a bus captain. Are you kidding me? Me, a bus captain? Yet as I started tiptoeing forward, my home town bus company helped me see that the monsters I had imagined were not so scary. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all, but I was still feeling pretty lonely.

Fortunately, a kindred spirit from Northwest Arkansas, Edward Hejtmanek by name, had been asking the same questions and coming to much the same conclusions. After a mutual friend put us in touch, we decided to throw in together and become PCM bus co-captains. What a difference that has made. Details, lots of them, remain to be worked out, but what is emerging is the vision outlined above of how the global Climate Summit can help catalyze local action right here in Arkansas. But don't misunderstand. We ARE going to New York, and we DO still want to be part of this historic march. It is just that this trip is no longer about filling one more bus to meet up with 400 other bus-loads and tens of thousands more carrying signs and shouting slogans. This trip is about raising awareness here at home of others in our communities who are standing up for a just, safe, peaceful, and healthy world. It is about forging new connections and renewing old ones, about organizing and shifting power so that effective steps are imaginable. This is our emerging vision.

Please join the conversation on
Friend to Friend on Climate

Find out more about it at
PCM: Arkansas Bus

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Friend to Friend

What can I say to a new friend who is not familiar with climate change, but who is neutral and open-minded? How can I help her understand the magnitude and urgency of the issues without overwhelming her or worse still sounding like a raving fanatic? What should I say to an unbiased person who genuinely wants to understand what climate change is all about? Here are a few bullet points:

  1. The Earth's climate has been stable for ten thousand years.
  2. Since 1900, the Earth's average temperature has increased substantially, a trend even more noticeable since 1980.
  3. Almost all of the warming is attributable to human activities, particularly emissions of greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide and methane.
  4. Already we are seeing the destructive effects on human existence of climate change related to global warming.
  5. The dire consequences of continuing at this pace are hard to imagine and almost impossible to exaggerate.

The Science

  1. Consensus: 97% of climate scientists are in full agreement with points 1-3 above and in substantive agreement with points 4 and 5.
  2. Most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.
  3. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports provide detailed discussions of this position.
  4. The National Climate Assessment (NCA) Report of 2014 summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.

The Politics

  1. To mitigate climate change, aggressive reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are needed by the United States and other nations.
  2. The threatened fossil (carbon) fuel industry has been bankrolling an immense campaign of disinformation using "doubt and delay" tactics.
  3. This campaign is precisely reminiscent of a similar campaign by Big Tobacco against the health risks of tobacco several decades ago.
  4. Technology is available now to economically and effectively switch to renewable clean energy sources if we have the political will to do so.

The Moral Choices

  1. The effects of global warming will persist for hundreds of years. What are our responsibilities and duties today to help safeguard the distant future?
  2. The devastations of climate change disproportionately affect the vulnerable and disadvantaged. What are our responsibilities to "the least of these?"

The March

  1. In a bottom-up approach, nations take on self-determined obligations based on national priorities and circumstances: a “mosaic world.”
  2. In a top-down process, a growing set of nations take on increasingly ambitious greenhouse gas emissions targets and carbon markets playing a central role.
  3. Tension over these approaches are on display as nations commence serious negotiations to develop a post-2020 agreement to be concluded in Paris in late 2015.
  4. "UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action."
  5. The People's Climate March is "an invitation to change everything."

Please join the conversation on
Friend to Friend on Climate

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Why March? Second Thoughts

I still want to join the People's Climate March (PCM) in NYC, and I still hope to help make it possible for a bus-load of others to go too. But if such a bus does not materialize, will I make arrangements to go myself or with a smaller group? That is my question this morning.

If I go by myself I will fly, of course, but the irony of taking a plane to a climate march is not lost on me. A bus trip is four times more carbon efficient per person. On the other hand, going by train or automobile (even my Prius) is only about twice as efficient and less convenient. Let's face it long distance travel in this country is carbon intensive no matter how you go. This leads me to ask:

What is important?

The occasion that has spawned the PCM is the planned UN Climate Summit two days after the march. This will be a crucial meeting at a crucial time, and global media attention will be (or should be) focused on New York City. Here is the semi-official announcement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action. He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.

Leaders from over five hundred organizations have seized this opportunity to make a demonstrate that 'the people' are serious about climate change and that we expect our leaders to share our concern by leading boldly.

With our future on the line, we will take a weekend and use it to bend the course of history. In New York City there will be an unprecedented climate mobilization – in size, beauty, and impact. Our demand is for Action, Not Words: take the action necessary to create a world with an economy that works for people and the planet – now. In short, we want a world safe from the ravages of climate change.

This is the invitation that grabbed my attention, and started me planning to travel to NYC and join this historic march. I hope there is a HUGE turnout and I want to be one of those present.

On the other hand

Even the march organizers acknowledge the limitations of what can be accomplished at the summit and by the march:

We know that no single meeting or summit will "solve climate change" and in many ways this moment will not even really be about the summit. We want this moment to be about us – the people who are standing up in our communities, to organize, to build power, to confront the power of fossil fuels, and to shift power to a just, safe, peaceful world. To do that, we need to act – together.

One of the participating organizations (the one most instrumental bringing the march to my attention) is Greenfaith. Here is what they have said on the People of Faith People's' Climate March Facebook page:

Thousands of people of diverse faiths will be taking part in the People's Climate March this September 21 in New York City. Thousands more will be holding observances in their own communities on the day of the March. This Facebook group is a place to find out what's going on in New York City and your own area, and how to find resources that will help your faith community mark this witness for a sustainable climate for all.

In other words, the march in New York City a big deal, but it's not the only deal and it's not the only way to participate in the movement.

A page from Peace Day's playbook

It has not escaped my attention that September 21 is also the International Day of Peace. Hundreds of organizations are promoting this event around the world, perhaps none more avidly than Peace One Day.

Peace Day is an opportunity for UN agencies and NGOs to focus their ongoing life-saving activities within a global context. The impact of a day of global ceasefire and non-violence cannot be underestimated. Throughout the years, millions of people have been active on Peace Day in every country of the world, and hundreds of organizations have carried out life-saving activities in areas of conflict.

Since 2007 humanitarian and life-saving Peace Day activities have take place all over the world, contributing towards peace-building, development, and aid, including the delivery of supplies like mosquito nets, food, and vaccines, particularly in Afghanistan. These activities have affected the lives of millions. But another major emphasis of Peace One Day is "simply" raising awareness of Peace Day around the world. It was estimated by McKinsey and Company 280 million people in 198 countries were aware of Peace Day 2012. Last year that number increased to 470 million people in 200 countries, and their goal is reach 1.5 billion people in 2014. That would be amazing. Really.

Raising Awareness

How many people are or will be aware of the UN Global Climate Summit, September 21 (and to what degree)? Without engaging a company such as McKinsey, we probably have little way of knowing or even estimating accurately. But the actual number does not really matter. What does matter is that for those who cannot go to New York City to participate in the PCM, what all of us can do is raise awareness of the march and the summit. This is no insignificant achievement. I encourage each who reads this to share with everyone you can in as many ways as you can.