On Monday, November 30th, the first day of the Paris COP21 climate negotiations, friend and fellow climate activist Will Genadek and I decided we’d join in on the people’s action.
On the first day back from Thanksgiving Break, a friend and I decided to join in solidarity to the climate actions happening in Paris for COP21. Using sunup to sundown as our thresholds (10 hours, 7am-5pm) we sat in silence without any food, in the middle of the Oval at the University of Montana, Missoula. On the hour, we would walk the circular perimeter six times, to represent our planet’s six mass extinctions, the current one being triggered by us, humans.
The experience was heavy, difficult at times, sometimes boring, always frozen, and, in the end, absolutely beautiful. My toes are still waxy and red as it was 0 degrees Fahrenheit when we got up. The temperatures remained south of 15 degrees all day. Hundreds of students stopped to read our small leaflets. We chose to not have large signs or social media events or much planning. It was an experiment in spontaneous action from the heart.
We found that this actually disarmed a lot of people, made them come closer, made them engage. Some walked around the perimeter with us. Some told us we were crazy. Some thanked us. Some took photos, one of which somehow made it to the Congolese delegate at the Paris talks. Dogs ran into our laps and licked our faces. Small children would approach and ask: “Mommy, what are they doing?” We would wave; they waved back, smiling always.
These moments made me tear up, but then I thought tears might possibly freeze my eyelids shut so I held them back.
All day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the future. I listened to footsteps coming and going all day. Footsteps in, footsteps out. Thousands of footsteps. I thought about what kind of world our children are inheriting, what I’m leaving them with, what planet they’ll be walking into? With recent shootings in San Bernardino, California (ten minutes from my alma mater, the University of Redlands; I worked a mile from the massacre site) and more U.S. shootings than days of year in 2015, prayer is indeed powerful and necessary, but it’s not enough. We need to act, to demonstrate peace and restraint towards violence against ourselves and towards the planet. Now.
More words and actions to come. Here are some images from the day, by two wonderful photographers and powerful women, Alex Wardwell and Anna Schreck. Thanks to everyone who encouraged us to keep going.
Let’s keep going.