Friday, October 10, 2014

Praying with Our Feet - People's Climate March

Written by Jessica Zimmerle
Earth Ministry Outreach Coordinator

Dear friends,

All of creation is suffering from the injustices of climate change. Unfortunately, increased natural disasters, droughts, and extreme weather have not moved world leaders to create sustainable policy solutions. So it was time we took a different approach to captivate their attention – bringing together 400,000 people at the People’s Climate March in New York City for history’s largest climate demonstration.

After traveling cross-country to attend the inspiring Religions for the Earth Conference at Union Theological Seminary, Earth Ministry/WAIPL Executive Director, LeeAnne Beres, and I were anxious to put our faith into action. Let’s take a moment to set the scene.

Photo credit: Oxfam International
It was a cloudy early morning in New York City. Climate activists crowded our subway ride from Harlem to Central Park. Emerging above ground, we were met immediately by volunteers sharing information, youth handing out signs, and a constant flow of people filing in for the faith-based section of the march. Different traditions were grouped together, each celebrating creation in their own manner. Upon entering the crowded city streets, we cheerfully greeted friends from all across the country and gathered with other affiliates of Interfaith Power & Light.

The energy of the crowd was tangible. As our start time approached, the street was jam packed and the atmosphere became absolutely electric. After the Muslim call to prayer, we stepped off while singing “We Are Marching in the Light of God.” Slowly but surely the 12,000 people of faith joined the larger march, incorporating with the hundreds of thousands others who filled 80 city blocks of New York City.

A mobile mosque and an ark filled with interfaith representatives proudly led the religious contingency. As Al Gore said afterwards, we were "praying with our feet." Some chanted while they marched, others sang danced through the streets. Many proudly held banners and signs with clever phrases, showing where they had traveled from and their motivation to march. Onlookers lined the streets to cheer us on; some acknowledged us directly with words of encouragement.

Throughout the entire march, the passion did not wane. Nearing the end of the route, we were informed that the final block party had reached capacity and were asked to disperse early. Even after the 7 hours we had spent on our feet together, people were hesitant to disband. It truly did feel like the People’s Climate March, and we the people did not want to stop demanding climate action now.

Environmental activism was taken to a whole new level by this global action. Over 675,000 people participated in over 2,500 solidarity events worldwide, including 2,000 individuals that took to the streets of Seattle. This turnout certainly made a statement to the world leaders who gathered at the United Nations Climate Summit the next day and have the power to implement more sustainable policy at next year’s UN Climate Conference in Paris.

Looking back on the experience, I already know it is something I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life. I felt a tremendous sense of empowerment through uniting with folks from all walks of life sharing a common vision of a more sustainable future. It was as if I was lifted up and refueled with hope by the spirit of all who surrounded me, as well as the even larger groups they embodied.

I did not march in the People’s Climate March for myself, but for you – honored to represent Earth Ministry/WAIPL’s members and the values we stand for. People of faith hold the megaphone for the moral voice of climate justice, and we are not afraid to use it. We proudly took to the streets to express our faith and tell the world that each of our traditions call for us to care for creation.

My hope is that we will retain this energy and keep moving forward with persistent zeal, continuing to build the faith community as the ethical base for a climate action. Thousands of creation care advocates caught the world’s attention in New York City; let’s keep up the momentum and continue marching forward in their footsteps towards a more sustainable future.

In peace,
Jessica

To view Earth Ministry's Facebook photo album of the march, please click here.
To view photos of the People's Climate March from across the globe, please click here.