Maryland Takes Lead in Climate Activism

Bill McKibben DCYou might think, had you been at Lafayette Park for the Summer of Heat demonstration Saturday, July 27, that climate change is a fringe issue.  Under 300 people is my estimate of the crowd so in purely numerical terms, it was disappointing.  After all, as we were reminded by the Newseum exhibits, 200,000 people came out for Civil rights and more for the rally to end the draft and the war.  Numbers get media attention and often generate more numbers, so they remain a measure of a movement’s success. Yet numbers tell only a partial story at best.  So while we were a relatively small group gathered in Washington DC to cheer on the Green Grannies, the testimony of children, and listen with rapt attention to Bill McKibben, a great many people have begun to change their behavior as if the argument was settled decades ago (as it was).  Some of them are not afraid to use their positions of leadership to, well, lead.

Take Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (we would!).  On Thursday, while participants of the Walk for Our Grandchildren were nearing our goal to rally at the White House, Gov. O’Malley offered a new plan for Maryland to a climate summit of hundreds of environmental advocates, scientists and business leaders.
He was blunt about the state’s “moral obligation” to address climate change and argued that retooling for sustainable goals will mean more jobs.

Chesapeake Bay Enviro Cntr2We didn’t have to look too long to see what is already happening in the state.  In Grasonville, MD, where we spent a couple of nights, there is the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, miles of trails through bay and wetland restoration projects, a summer camp and ongoing education.  In 2008 CBEC opened a new LEED certified arts and education facility to meet the growing needs of its educational programs. The new facility itself, the first of its kind on the Eastern Shore, is a demonstration site that ‘going green’ is feasible, aesthetically pleasing and economically smart.  It serves as a resource center for developers engaging in smart growth.  Florida, are you listening?

Walking for Our Grandchildren

We made it!  At the end of our 13-plus mile walk (60-plus miles for those who started at Camp David, MD., we were tired, ready for a cold drink, and elated to be among this amazing group of people: a student from Asheville, NC, (where we had just been) considering a major in environmental studies, and a couple from Harrisonburg, VA, former dentist and high school counsellor, both environmentalists and fellow UU’s, among our walking partners for the day.
Here I am at the headquarters of Environmental Resources Management,
an organization (1776 Eye Street) that green-lighted the Keystone XL pipeline, where 54 of our number submitted themselves to arrest for trespassing.

Marika at Walk endIt was almost surreal leaving the easy camaraderie and natural beauty of the walk  from the Mardsen Tract where people camped overnight, along the tow paths of old canals, material-moving technology of another century, into Georgetown.   Our route took us down  “M” Street, the shopping and dining hub, packed on a Friday with brand-name bag toting shoppers and people sampling the upscale restaurants.  (In another life, we have been both!)  Thanks to the yogurt shop for handing out free samples.  Impressions and echoes of the conversations from the day drift back to me now, and no doubt will in the next few days.  This is an unusual group by any reckoning: Charlie and Kathy, who volunteer regularly for hurricane relief (Katrina and Greneda) and who gave us valuable information about solar panels and the Chevy Volt; folks who report from the fronts of community action (Liz Schmitt — Did I give you my card?) from Sojourners: Faith in Action for Social Justice; Walk organizer, Bill Repsher, who cheerful helped us GPS our way to a parking area for the Marsden Tract;  Mark, who made sure we got our van ride back to our car.  Special thanks to Greg Yost for articulate, inspiring posts about each day
Howie at Walk startof the Walk.  At the end of the day, we also had a new appreciation for good shoes, socks, and feet (no blisters!).  For peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (our lunch) and water when you are really, really thirsty. For the excellent camera that comes with the smart phone, and for GPS that gets you from anywhere to where you want to go, including all the Metro stops in the Washington D.C. area   Within the hour, we leave The Bolger Center in Potomac, MD, where we have been most comfortably sheltered these few nights, for our rendezvous with the group at Lafayette Park for a noon rally.  We’ll hear Bill McKibben and others about what we have accomplished with this action, and what more we can do.  This is, after all, just one action among many planned and/or carried out in this Summer of Heat.  In the spirit of the quote from Chief Seattle, just in from our buddy in Florida, Laura Kirsner, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children,” we have just begun.

Deja Vu

activistsBefore there was the Transition Movement, there was the  Center for the New American Dream, a non-profit organization whose mission  is to “help Americans to reduce and shift their consumption to improve quality of life, protect the environment, and promote social justice.”  Before my spouse and I decided that we had to become activists for the environment (that’s us at a rally on a Florida beach), we were activists of another kind.  Our mission was to prevent the loss of the experience and talents of millions of older people to retirement, and to prevent premature aging to which a life devoted entirely to leisure leads.  We had a website, a coach training program, and we wrote a book: Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life which we are happy to say is still ‘in print.’  In fact, the link above will take you to a virtual bookstore where you can read the reviews and buy it.

Last year, we passed the baton to one of our coaches (we call them certified facilitators) who runs the website and trains others now.  Friends joked that the anti-retirement couple were, gasp! retiring.  But that was not the case.  We were simply shifting the focus, to translate what we learned in our separate careers and our joint endeavor, into environmental activism.  As grandparents, we never wanted to have to face our grandchildren in the future and say we did nothing about the climate crisis.

We had a link to New American Dream in our book and were aligned with their vision that consumerism and the ideology of endless economic growth was not sustainable, and that ordinary citizens like us could do make changes in our own lives that shrink our ecological footprint.  So it was a great honor to be approached by an editor at New American Dream looking to profile us for their Living the Dream series!  Their questionnaire gave us a reason for a life review; we got to take stock of where we are in our lives, what we believe in, and what matters most to us.  It’s a worthwhile exercise at any age, but particularly when you have a lot of life already lived to examine.  We were also motivated to pour through our photo album to find some suitable photos for the profile.  It will be out soon.  In the meantime, you might enjoy reading the current Living the Dream profile, about Montana homesteader, Ashley Browning.