Friday, February 22, 2013

Standing Together: Secularists and the Religious

By Gary Berg-Cross

Although it wasn’t much covered in the national, corporate media thousands, perhaps 40,000 or more  people gathered in Washington, D.C. on a cold Sunday in February as part of the Forward on Climate Rally. Sponsored by and the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations it was a step to build an integrated movement. The immediate objective was to urge President Barack Obama to reject the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline TransCanada application, to introduce measures to regulate carbon and take steps to mitigate the effects of climate change.

It was all there in the protest signs and their sighs of concern, anger and determination.

“We are unstoppable, another world is possible.”

Some held placards saying, "Read my lips: no new carbons," or as repeated by Bill McKibben "We're in a climate hole: stop digging."  An angry, in-your -face one read, "Don't be frackin' crazy." But most were more directly, focused and home grown,  “Act Now — Before It’s Too Late.”

The Huffington Post noted among the protesters were senior citizens in wheelchairs, a dad from Indiana carrying a toddler, women from a Unitarian church in Corvallis, Ore., and college students, including Florida's Molly Kampmann who was holding a picture of a pipeline with the caption: "This is why I'm hot."
Others dressed a protesting polar bears and listened to speakers who spoke of this in urgent terms that brings us together in the last seconds of the last quarter of a great and very human struggle.

There were all kinds of folk in DC to urge us to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and the first group I ran smack into were by the Metro stop on the mall. They were a happy, busy group from Christian social justice organization Sojourners ( 3333 14th St. NW, Suite 200 DC) and they were out in force.
Sojourners support various progressive activities including the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, the Free South Africa movement, as well as opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis spoke in 2010 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland about moral recovery for economic recovery in a talk “Rethinking Values in the Post-Crisis World.” – See the transcript which includes:

 ‘The bonuses are only a symptom of a deeper erosion of societal values.’ There are new maxims, which have overtaken us, like ‘greed is good’, ‘it’s all about me’, and ‘I want it now’. Those maxims wreak havoc with economies, cultures, families and our very souls.

From held signs my first impression of the rally is that it was a but reunion of  Unitarian Universalist Church chapters. South Church Unitarian Universalist was one of dozens of chapters who had organizing buses for members who wished to attend. The First Unitarian Society of Westchester in Hastings-on-Hudson there along with allies -  Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialogue at Iona College in New Rochelle. 35 people, mostly students, had signed up at the college.

“There’s a very real concern and a very real eagerness for this generation to learn how to do citizen advocacy,” a Sister Kathleen Deignan said. “As the students say, this is the issue for their generation. It was indeed a millennial filled scene and full of youth. Our Task was handing out brochures about its July workshop for a Youth Plan B at GMU.  I enjoyed this mix as well as the secular-religious one They brought impassioned curiosity. It was a group of ad hoc freethinkers, bucking a naïve trend to follow a dumb consensus of inaction.  Nice birds to flock together with for obvious ideas that seem outrageous to the mislead many.

 The Interfaith Moral Action on Climate group was there and had urged members to:

  bring a group from your congregation to join religious communities from around our area and across the country in speaking out for creation at the Forward on Climate Rally on Presidents' Day weekend. Bring congregational banners and wear congregational T-shirts. Buddhists were there and, oh yes several of us from WASH.

I felt quite at home with good spirited folk of all kinds.  Some were from my generation and veterans of protest.  At the sight of one another we fell into easy conversation like old friends.  Some were from low-lying areas of the country bearing scared memories of Superstorm Sandy. "We're right in the path of sea level rise," said Mark Geduldig-Yactrosky of Portsmouth, Va., explaining his concern about climate change. "We're a low-lying area. We have rising oceans and subsiding lands. So that personalizes it for us."

The weather was cold but their stories were bright entertainment of the serious kind.  This wind? This is what climate change feels like, a New Yorker explained to me with charm and thoughtful cadence.

Burlington, Vt., resident Michael Ware, holding a "Stop Vermont Yankee" banner, said last year's extreme weather convinced many Americans that climate change is serious. "What will Vermont, what will any state, look like in 20 years?" he asked.

This is, as was said the most fateful battle that mankind will wage. And we do not stand fully alone as Linda Britt, who came from Ann Arbor, Michigan explained. Linda could stand others secular or religious who are grandparents like me.  We stand powerfully together when we understand what is important.

"I have six grandchildren, and I want them to have a habitable planet," Linda said.

Yes, Linda, it’s why I was there.  I was there for my/our grandkids.


Chief Jacqueline Thomas, Saik’uz First Nation, speaks at the rally in Washington, DC, February 17, 2013 (Photo by Stephen Malagodi)

Children Attendees at the Feb. 17 Forward on Climate Rally. Photo by Jim Hall / Dayspring Earth Ministry

Rally photos: provide on Google Images

For my grandkids:  Collage by Gary Berg-Cross


Don Wharton said...

Excellent post Gary! Lee and I weere there.

Yes there were a lot of "interfaith" organizations there. In principle I would like to see secular people more heavily relate to the religious communities that are working in positive directions. However, I see the ther interfaith as a problem. Faith is used so much to support repressive causes. How do we relate without indirectly support the evils which we abhor.

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Mike and Stu were also here. I did run into Mike but others that I knew were there were lost in the crowd.