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.
(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.