[By Sean Glenn]
Wow. We are in the heart of it all.
Yesterday I woke up stressed and to be perfectly honest, uninspired after our Chicago events. I thought our marcher speakers were excellent! And I was so proud of all of them; their calls for “radical” action that really are the sanest of reactions to our current crisis. They spoke with conviction and confidence gained in marching from LA to the Windy City. We have seen enough now to know that we need to act and we need to change, ten years ago, yesterday, and most definitely today! But, even with their amazing presence onstage, I was still thrown off by one speaker. This particular speaker spent his allotted three minutes listing off what he presented to be solutions to our human caused changes in climate. I felt the marchers sink with every “solution”. From switching light bulbs, to changing your socks every three days rather than daily, and finally a “turn off the sink while you brush your teeth you numbskulls!” I felt defeated. I am sorry for how frustrated I got, and I don’t wish to be singling out this man as the source of my stress and loss of my hope. It is not his fault; so many people just really don’t understand where we are as a species… In the middle of the sixth major extinction known to the Earth. I so badly wanted to run up after his speech to him or to the stage to explain that those are the babiest of steps we must be taking in order to save ourselves. Anyway, I woke up the next morning still somewhat stuck in feeling as though we had lost. And this sadness was soon reflected back at me as I approached a Scandinavian woman touring the city with her husband. I handed her a manifesto and explained that we are marching across the country, she was inspired. Then I explained to her why we were crossing this continent and she responded with a, “Good luck!” She was very quick to share how she was not the least bit envious that us young folk have to deal with the mess we humans have made, while she would be kicking the bucket soon. I trotted off to catch up with my marcher friends thinking, “please lady, take me with you.”
The day continued on, luckily marchers have understood the fair amount of grief regarding the world and are excellent at consoling. I was feeling better and better still getting back to normal by the time we had reached the Southeast Side. We had arranged a march and rally with a couple local coalitions to ban petcoke and were having way too much fun talking with people hanging around the neighborhood. They all had something to say about the big piles of black stuff down by the refinery; stories of asthma, black dust coating cars in the afternoon, and misunderstandings of what exactly the black stuff is. We were sure to invite everyone to the march and potluck we would be holding after a visit to the Koch Brother’s Petcoke storage facility. We showed up to the march welcomed by cameras from local TV stations as activists trickled in. After a couple of speeches we began our march. We had one stop at a representative’s office before heading to the Koch Brother’s property. We had made plans for a die in at the entrance. We would all lie down on the train tracks as though we had died creating a “climate crime scene.” So a couple of us were laying on the ground and on the tracks when all the sudden, a train is coming!
Lying on the ground I heard the concerned pleas to get up and watch out for the train. Security was there to usher us at least two feet off of the tracks so that the forces of the train would not pull us in and under. Confused, not sure what to do I was very slow to bring myself back to life and off the tracks, “but I’m dead I shouted.” Just the day before I had a conversation about the fact that on this march I am learning how to work with cops; when it is you really have to listen versus the situations where you can react to their commands slowly or even not at all. Learning to push boundaries in a way that would be most effective for the whole world I slowly crawled to the side and by this time the train was mostly stopped. And we were too. No one expected a train blockade this evening. We thought we would lie down for a moment, shout a few chants and then head on off to eat our donated casseroles. All the sudden we were on the tracks of a blocked train. We looked around and immediately began chanting anything that seemed to make sense for the moment. The security was flustered and working to get us off the property. Balancing on the beam I walked towards the train. We were telling the conductors to “get back!” They came out to take photos and smile at our efforts. Whether that was to poke fun or not I am unsure but they were here, stopped, and all because of us. Eventually the real cops showed up so we headed out knowing we did not have a lawyer and were not sure of our rights, just living in the general unpreparedness of the moment. Back at the church, our home for the evening, we were buzzing. The celebration was full of inspirations and an understanding of what it means to work together, come together as one.
Today, we left this church early ready to cross into our next state, Indiana. Today we were marching into Gary; on our trip we would be passing the BP Whiting Tarsands Refinery, the biggest in the country. With not much in the way of a plan for when we got there we started off marching as we do any other marching morning. Not too far out we see the refinery. The smoke spewing into the bright blue sky was unreal. Emotions were flowing as we contemplated what was happening here, this factory of mass destruction. Once we had reached the entrance we held up our Climate March banner and solemnly posed for a picture. We stood there longer than necessary as the workers continued on not sure what to make of us. We were already interrupting the regular flow of traffic but I didn’t mind. We must interrupt the everyday. The everyday is killing us.
Standing in the middle of the road we looked out at the pipes, the flames. It was depressing as anything. We are at the heart of the crisis. This is the source where the carbon black blood is pumped to fuel the whole cancerous body stuck in grossly consuming habits, ignorant of the simple cure of coming back to the earth, the very making of our being. Holding a banner was not enough. Not knowing what else to do I kneeled down to beg Mother Earth for forgiveness. Pleading to stop the madness I was joined by a few of the younger marchers. We held a moment, living with our feelings, comforting each other as best we could. No one seemed to mind much, they simply watched us, they know the evil too. Afterwards I approached each of the employees present. I handed them my card and embraced the ones who were willing to receive a hug. I felt their sadness. We are all affected by this madness. We are all killing ourselves.
Eventually security grew tired of our presence and so on we marched. Grateful for an opportunity to express and connect I felt okay… Still sad, but good enough to walk on. Later this afternoon we found a monarch on the side of the road crossing a bridge. She seemed unwell. She carefully crawled into my open palm. I held her in one hand blocking the fast wind from blowing her away with my other, perfectly conscious of the struggle monarchs have been having as their habitat, our world, crumbles. She crawled onto my chest, insects seem to love crawling towards new heights. I felt as though I was holding a sleepy babe fighting the urge to drift off. I offered my flowery hat as the next point of discovery to the butterfly and she accepted daintily. Looking for a flowery bunch to lay this beautiful creature to rest, as I sensed her time had come, before I knew it she flew off, was taken away by a harsh gust and blown into the street. She regained control enough to make it to the shoulder on the other side of the road and I was so grateful the oncoming cars were not the source of her ultimate demise. But I stopped. Feeling stuck, I wondered if I should run to the other side of the road to help her to a more graceful, peaceful ending at home on a flower. Instead I just watched her for a moment. Her fluttering wings sent jolts of melancholia down my spine, through my being. I wish I could do more for her. I wish I could do more for this planet. Thanking the butterfly for her beauty I accepted her fate… Sad still, but good enough to march on.