STORIES OF HOPE AND COURAGE
People everywhere are taking action to stop climate change. Here are a few stories from Co-Counselors.
Photograph by Uri Thier
CLIMATE ACTION IN NEW YORK CITY
Last night I met New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Charlene McCray. I spoke to them personally about #SANDY5: JOIN THE MARCH FOR CLIMATE ACTION. The march is on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which damaged our city five years ago. I relayed the demand that the mayor divest the city workers' pension funds from fossil fuels and support frontline communities. Speaking to him was a major blow (contradiction) to my feelings of insignificance and fear.
This coming Saturday I will march across the Brooklyn Bridge with Action Corps NYC, the group I lead, and thousands of other people. We will march for our fellow New Yorkers who, after 5 years, still cannot return to their homes, which were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. We will march for our Boricua brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico. We will march for you and me.
And we will keep marching and lobbying, writing and calling, singing and praying -- and counseling! We will not be silent, and you my beloved counselor, will not be left alone.
West Harlem Community
New York City, USA
LISTENING PROJECT IN ENUGU, NIGERIA
I was part of the Care of the Environment (COE) Listening Project organised by RC Community, Enugu-Nigeria on 29th May. We met as a community at a popular junction in Trans-Ekulu called NOWAS Junction, Enugu, Nigeria. After briefing ourselves on what the nature of a COE Listening Project should be, we commenced by distributing handbills (flyers) with inscriptions like:
"We Speak Earth"
"Stop Hurting the Earth"
"Join Hands Let Us Protect Mother Earth"
The handbills drew attention and some people inquired more about what we were doing. We quickly used the opportunity to tell them about RC and at the same time listened to them talk about how they feel about the condition of our environment in view of human activities.
The people were very excited to be asked about their feelings and very receptive of RC theory. I was amazed to hear people talk about how hurt they are at the speedy degeneration of our environment; they readily poured out their hearts. It called my attention once more to the fact that we are not alone in this; yet I must acknowledge that some seemed not to care about the environment.
So far the community has had several people calling through the contacts information on the handbills we shared. And I am very happy that I connected with them.
Rev. Chijioke Agbaeze
RC GRA Community, Enugu-Nigeria
NEIGHBORHOOD INVOLVEMENT IN LONDON
I am involved in some local projects that I think bring hope and connection.
I live in a street in London with around 75 homes. Most are families and some are couples or single people like me, some with sharers. We love our street and like to think it is a friendly place to live. There are people from at least a dozen different countries/backgrounds.
Every year we have a street party and at last year's party I started to ask people to think about our immediate environment. Young people designed shopping bags to be used instead of supermarket plastic bags. We also had a day when people sowed seeds and planted flowers around the trees in the pavements. Young people drew labels so that we knew what would come up and people walking past would be deterred from standing on the little flower-beds. Later in the year we had a film night to watch three short movies: one local, one global, and one inspirational.
We now have the bags available and we have had another sowing/planting day. This year at the street party we asked people to sign up for the 'Dahomey Road Eco-club' and choose if they wanted to take part in 1) street gardening, 2) tool sharing, and 3) eco-film nights. Lots of people did.
We are learning as we go and we aim to keep up the momentum. Getting together and enjoying each others' company and nature brings hope in a city where people can be easily isolated.
STUDENTS PUSHING FOR A CLIMATE CURRICULUM
A while ago some of the young people in my organization started asking other students where they heard about climate change and almost none of them had heard about it in schools.
What we found out is that science teachers in United States are scared about teaching about climate change even though most of them would like to be able to. It seems like it's a bit like teaching about evolution, which some people object to because of religious beliefs about where people come from.
A year and a half ago the young people at my organization, Youth on Board, heard that the State of Massachusetts was redoing its science standards. They pushed for some rewording to make sure that the words "climate change" were included in pieces of the state standards. Once the state standards were changed it was easier for us to work with Boston public schools on creating curriculum around climate change.
We then formed a team of five teachers and five students to work on curriculum over the summer. Five lessons were created for each of three levels of school—elementary, middle school, and high school.
For this school year, there is a team of eight young people called the Climate team (my son Adam is on the team) who are refining the curriculum, getting some schools to pilot it, and having an official launch to get people excited about it in the spring. This is historic!
AN IN-THE-MOMENT, UNEDITED REPORT OF EXTINCTION REBELLION (XR) ACTIONS IN LONDON
April 16, 2019--XR declared a Climate Emergency 6 months ago, and made demands that the media and government tell the truth, the Govt act now, and that citizens assemblies be set up to handle this crisis. I organised an Earthmarch to walk 55 miles from Oxford to London in 5 days. Over 70 people left Oxford in a noisy colourful send off, with flags, music, chanting. Other marches joined us and over the following days we became a core group of about 30 marching to London to join the XR International Rebellion. All along we were met with generous kind people who gave us meals, put us up for the night or let us sleep free in community halls. Heart-warming. Reactions from passers-by were on the whole very encouraging.
While walking through a wood we sat in a big circle, did new and goods, had a 4 way listening time, and sat in silence, appreciating our environment before discussing tactics, whether we walked in the middle of the road or not as we entered the next town! Fifth day we grew massively in numbers and were given a raucous welcome by a samba band as we entered Hyde Park in the centre of London. Many of us spoke at the gathering, me included (another challenge met!) to about 300 people, about our experiences on these marches and why we'd done it. We camped the night, made possible by the police relaxing the camping restrictions in the park, ready for the XR International Rebellion next day. Five major areas in Central London, hubs of heavy traffic, were to be blocked by XR protesters.
We had briefings, separated into affinity groups, (groups prepared and supporting each other to take arrestable actions) and with the co-operation of the police, stepped into the very busy roads to stop the traffic. This was achieved easily in all areas, we formed blockades of people behind huge banners, and the mood changed from tense apprehension to enjoyment of traffic-free streets. Meantime friends from the March daubed paint on the Shell Oil building and were arrested. Feelings - scary, exhilarating, hopeful to be with so many people, several thousand, prepared to be arrested. Today, second day, many more arrests, over 100, as the police attempt to clear a bridge over the river Thames. Latest news is that they haven't succeeded!
We know a lot about organising in RC which has been so useful to me. And about support - it was great to see an RCer in a key XR role being listened to for a long time by a passing RCer as he worked out how to move a blockade. The intention is to keep up civil disobedience for two weeks or more. All for now.
Oxford, London, UK
WOMEN, FASHION, AND ECO-ACTION
After years of being ‘stuck’ in my thinking and ability to take action about Care of the Environment issues, I am finally moving. I am so pleased [and relieved] that I would like to share what I’m doing as an artist/activist on ‘Women, Fashion & Eco-Action’.
Fast fashion is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, water pollution, air pollution and over-use of water. In the UK, clothing has the fourth largest environmental impact after housing, transport and food. The average lifetime for a garment in the UK is just 2.2 years and an estimated £30bn of unused clothing hangs in UK wardrobes and yet we still shop for more. Each year 430,000 tonnes of clothing are disposed of in the UK, while the number of new clothes sold is rising.
My project is called ‘a:dress’, which is designed to address the impact of fast fashion on the environment, address the fashion industry and raise people’s awareness about the way they dress and shop.
I have gathered together a collective of women aged 18-70, who are passionate about slow clothing and ending the impact of fashion on climate change. Our group is made up of fashion designers and lecturers, a milliner, knitter and yarn artist, photographer, embroiderers and independent fashion retailers, plus art history, visual art and critical fashion students.
Our focus is on female consumers, as women are disproportionately affected by fast fashion. For example, the impact of sexism and objectification on women’s self-esteem and body image can lead us to be emotionally vulnerable to pressures from the fashion industry.
We will hold workshops locally in Folkestone where I live, in venues such as schools, a MIND day-centre, a fabric shop and with Girl Guide and Brownie packs. Workshops include customising and up-cycling vintage clothes; ‘zine-making; knicker-making; quilting; a poetry workshop; embroidery; and arm knitting. There will also be events involving the wider community, such as a Flashmob at the start of the project to raise awareness; a Clothes Clinic where the public can learn to repair clothes; and a communally-created dress made on the beach from wood, seaweed and hag stones that will be reclaimed by the sea. This piece will be exhibited as part of the SALT Festival of the Environment 2019 in Folkestone.
We will also create a subversive fashion collection. Working both individually and collaboratively we artists will create twenty up-cycled vintage garments or original pieces, each interpreting a message about an issue of fashion...
STANDING UP TO FRACKING IN THE NORTH OF ENGLAND
I work with Reclaim the Power (RtP), including supporting the community in Lancashire, in the north of England, in their fight against fracking (hydraulic fracturing).
As “Rolling Resistance,” we successfully blockaded a fracking site every working day in July 2017.
In April, May, and June of 2018 the local community followed up with “United Resistance.” There was a different theme for each week: women, unions, Greens, health, faith groups, and more. Reclaim the Power organised a mass action camp, “Block Around the Clock,” and enough people participated that the fracking company was unable to get vehicles in or out of the site for fifty-five hours. We danced, sang, held workshops, and slept out on the busy road. With a bike-powered projector we screened the inspiring Australian film, The Bentley Effect, about community resistance to fracking.
YOUTUBE VIDEO: CHARCOAL BURNING--THE UNSUNG EVIL IN NWOYA
Alfred Oryem, ARP in Gulu, Uganda, made a YouTube video about the harm resulting from cutting trees to make charcoal and what can be done about it.
After two decades of war and life in the IDP camps, the Acoli people returned home only to find an increased population of trees in their once deserted land. As a result, many learnt how to burn charcoal while others resorted to selling their farmland to commercial charcoal dealers. With the rampant cutting down of trees, the people soon realised that lives face a serious danger as a result of their activities on the environment coupled with global climatic change.