walking for the children
July 21, 2013
In January, I walked into the icy Potomac to help fight climate change.
This week, I’ll be walking into the hottest month, 60 miles in 6 days, to help fight climate change.
On average, I guess I’ll be comfortable.
On average, the Earth is not comfortable.
The hottest decade since records have been kept was 2001-2010. June was month No. 340 (28 years) of warmer-than-average global temperatures. Our too-warm planet is reacting with deadly heat waves, melting Arctic ice, loss of snow in the Northern Hemisphere, glacier loss on Greenland and Antarctica, Hurricane Katrina, as well as historic cyclones, droughts, forest fires and floods.
And so, I’m walking, along with many others, including two from Climate Change Initiative of Howard County, Liz Feighner and Lore Rosenthal. We embark tomorrow from Harpers Ferry, (where we will camp tonight) on the Walk for Our Grandchildren to help secure a habitable climate for future generations.
They stayed Friday night in Myersville, MD, where residents are fighting a compressor station for Pennsylvania’s fracked natural gas. They camped in the yard of Tammy Mangan, treasurer of Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community (MCRC), and walked through town yesterday, stopping at the elementary school that’s a mile from the proposed compressor station site. Ann Marie Nau, MCRC’s vice president, also spoke at a press conference about the walk. Myersville residents got word Friday that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had ordered the state Department of the Environment to issue the required air quality permit for the compressor station or find a zoning reason to deny it, one that’s not pre-empted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). MCRC is still appealing the FERC certificate and has one lawsuit waiting for a date out there somewhere.
Liz, Lore and I are starting from Harpers Ferry, walking the remaining 60 or so miles to DC in time for a rally at the White House July 27.
Why are we sweating for this sweltering planet?
I am walking to call attention to the urgency that climate change is a real and present danger. I worry that if we don’t change our ways immediately, future generations will pay the price because of our inaction. We are blowing up mountains to extract coal, pumping toxic chemicals in the ground to extract natural gas and strip-mining millions of acres of boreal forest to extract tar sands oil, leaving behind a toxic brew. Meanwhile, we reached a very sobering milestone – 400 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere for the first time in human history. Concentration levels this high have not been seen on Earth for millions of years.
We are leaving an environmental debt to future generations that will burden them beyond our imagination. This is a debt we apparently have no intention of repaying, judging from the rate we are ravaging this Earth and destroying our planet.
As a new grandmother, I want my grandchildren to live in a beautiful and healthy environment, not one ravaged by our addiction to fossil fuels. I want to be proud of our legacy and I want our children to be grateful that we took action for their future. A Native American proverb says it all: “We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors: we borrow it from our children.”
Here’s an article about Lore’s activism and her decision to walk the walk.
And here’s my statement, previously posted on CCAN’s website:
My parents married in November 1945, just months after the end of World War II. My father had worked in the Navy developing radar; my mother used coupons to buy rationed food and fabric, gasoline and tires. At the war’s end, after their work and sacrifice, they decided it was safe to get married. As much as was possible, they could count on a future for themselves and their children.
My children were born in 1984 and 1994. I can’t know what their future holds, but my actions now — while we still have time to avert the worst climate changes — will shape their world.
This is our time to do whatever we can to ensure a future for our children, our grandchildren and generations to come. Even if that requires a WWII-like effort.
Our fight today is with the fossil fuels industry. Its executives, and the politicians who do their bidding, would have us go a little greener even as they carry on with ever more extreme technologies, spewing carbon and other greenhouse gases into our superheated atmosphere, with calamitous results for life on our planet.
Already, we are feeling the blowback, in the form of extreme storms and raging forest fires, long-term drought and deadly heat waves, melting glaciers and rising seas, acidic oceans and mass extinctions. Our burning of fossil fuels has also polluted our air, damaged our water and become the basis for pesticides, herbicides, plastics and other toxic chemicals that are making us and our planet sick. Enough already.
In that spirit, I will participate later this month in the Walk for Our Grandchildren, part of 350.org’s Summer Heat campaign to raise awareness about climate change and push President Obama to keep his promise to future generations. As scientist James Hansen says, we are in a climate emergency.
For nearly 30 years, I worked in newsrooms, as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. I was barred by ethics rules from even writing a letter to a legislator. I was also part of a business that quoted scientists about climate change, but for too long simultaneously undercut them by quoting bought-and-paid-for deniers and spreading misinformation, all in the name of fairness.
Now, I am making up for lost time.
I live in Howard County, Md., and see the urgency most clearly in the battle against fracking in the western part of the state. Residents describe feeling colonized as the landmen arrived to buy up leases for the gas beneath their feet. Maryland is still studying whether to allow fracking. Even with no fracking in the state, though, residents in the small town of Myersville are fighting a compressor station in their backyard for Pennsylvania’s fracked gas. If we build an economy on fracked gas, we will all face some combination of drilling rigs, compressor stations, pipelines, fractured forests, air and land pollution, methane leaks that accelerate climate change, and toxic chemicals and gases wandering around in our exploded bedrock looking for a way into our drinking water.
As our climate heads for dangerous tipping points, we must work toward our own tipping point – the point when our actions will bring about the enormous changes necessary to protect our children, future generations and the ecosystem that sustains all life on Earth. This country has a long history of protest. Alice Paul and other suffragists picketed in front of the White House for 2½ years in their demand for the vote. Some were jailed, beaten and force-fed. Civil rights activists rode buses into the segregated South, sat-in at lunch counters, faced beatings, tear gas and high-pressure water hoses, all in the name of justice. Each action built on the ones before.
We don’t know which of our actions will change hearts, minds and politics. But each is absolutely necessary, in the name of climate justice for those who come after us.
When we reach the rally at the White House Saturday, July 27, we’ll tell President Obama to keep his promise to free us from the tyranny of oil and reject that planet-melting Keystone XL pipeline. If you can, please join us along the walk or head for the rally. Our children, all children, are counting on it.
Social media for the walk: Like 2013 Walk for Our Grandchildren on Facebook. Follow on twitter at 2013 W4OG(@_Grandchildren). We’re using the hashtag #walk4grandkids both places. President Obama, keep your promises! #NoKXL!