9/6/2019 7:12:09 PM
Show Up. Join In. Speak Out.
By Valerie Beck
Take part in the Global Climate Strike September 20 to 27—and just see where it leads. It could be the turning point in the climate crisis.
I say this because I was there in the late 1960s and early 1970s when activism like this helped propel historical social and political change. This was the era of civil rights movements and protests against an unpopular and devastating war. It was change so profound that it defined a generation gap between those born pre– and post–WWII. It was change inspired by a generation who saw a system of widespread injustice, pervasive inequality, wrong-headed policy-making, and intractable leadership.
Change like that can happen. But it needs organization and participation. What I’m learning about the Global Climate Strike heartens me. The student organizers are on to something—big. And with fervor and focus and fortitude, this may prove to be a turning point. It makes me think about my own experiences. It makes me believe that significant cultural and political change can happen again even in divisive times. There are parallels here.
As early as April 1967 as a high school junior, I joined local protesters in demonstrations organized by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. In October 1969, then a college student, I took part in the global Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam demonstration and teach-in. Momentum was building. In November 1969, I joined over 500,000 less-than-organized people in the massive Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam march on Washington. It attracted millions of supporters around the world. We chanted slogans and sang with Pete Seeger. We marched for peace and we railed against war. It was nearly fifty years ago that I started marching. I marched on my Ann Arbor college campus. I marched in local towns and cities. I marched for and against various causes.
In April 2017, I marched in the People’s Climate March, also in Washington, D.C.
Today, showing up takes many forms. Strikes. Marches. Boycotts. Technology alone can usurp the need to congregate en mass to make a point. The internet and social media connect us all. Let’s use it forcefully. And persistently.
We must demonstrate our will. Because so very much is at stake. The Vietnam war resulted in the loss of 58,000 young Americans and millions of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Horrifying! But even that carnage is dwarfed by the potential for mass extinction of flora, fauna, and humankind as a result of the unchecked climate crisis. We must start the turn-around. Now.
Whichever way we do it—actually or virtually—showing up matters. As a Polar Bears International board member and champion of polar bear conservation, I couldn’t resist the call to show up for the People's Climate March in Washington, D.C. With steadfast PBI staff and graduates of our Climate Alliance program—and hundreds of thousands of others—we voiced our belief in the overwhelming scientific evidence that we are in a race against time and temperature to maintain life as we know it on our planet. And we demonstrated our resolve to work for policies and programs that address the problem. Our voices were heard. The message is seeping into the consciousness of millions.
History shows us that progress that benefits the greater good does prevail. Let’s keep the pressure on.
Showing up makes a statement. Joining in makes a movement. Speaking out makes a difference.
Make this a turning point.