Saturday, February 23, 2013

Letting Our Little Lights Shine

Forward on Climate Rally

“They report the number at the rally, but seldom mention the number who will starve to death, who have no voice other than ours.”

Among the thousands of people gathered in Washington, DC, for the Forward on Climate rally last Sunday were Chuck and Nancy Peek. Below, Fr. Peek and Nancy graciously share some of their impressions of the rally and some reflection on their reasons for being there.

Jesus taught us not to hide our lights under a basket, but to let them shine out into the world. In our culture, many voices encourage us to hide our lights, telling us it is futile or destructive or dangerous to let our lights shine. The Peeks counter those voices, telling us why it’s important to let our lights shine in this warming world.

                       Braving the Cold to Stop the Fatal Warming 
                                     By Chuck and Nancy Peek
         “Read My Lips, No New Carbons” (sign at D.C. rally)
One person told us there were as many reasons for joining the Forward on Climate Rally as there were people there.  So maybe there were 35,000 reasons, maybe there were 50,000 reasons.
However many the slope from the Washington Monument down to the Ellipse will hold…it was full.  It was full of cold people, with temperatures under 20.  It was full of bold people, with a message that only their presence could speak.  Some of them were from Bold Nebraska.
Many had come with a smaller carbon footprint by joining together for the grueling ride on the Nebraska bus.  Some of the reasons arose from love of the created world. Others’ reasons arose out of the politics surrounding global warming.
The Sierra Club’s Michael Brune, the good cop, there because the President’s inaugural said, in effect, come help me do the right thing.  Bill McKibben, from and fresh from his arrest, the bad cop, challenging the President to stand up and be counted, to act.
There were religious reasons that brought Sojourners and Green Faith and churches and their signs.  Several of the “occupy” this or that movements.  Defenders of property rights.  Hispanic leaders and advocates for women and children.  Tribal elders and ranchers…the new CIA (Cowboy-Indian Alliance).  A polar-bear-clad marcher trying to save the arctic (See Deacon Betsy Bennett’s Green Sprouts February 16 post for more about ice)  
If the pipeline goes through – No! No!—IF the pipeline goes through—No! No!—IF, IF the pipeline goes through, Nebraska becomes the center of the environmental universe! 
Solar advocates, wind proponents (“windmills, not oil spills”), vegans, seekers of truth in government, the end of grid-lock—old, young, and in between.  Many too young to be remembering civil rights or anti-war marches, many too old to be without environmental sin.  The two of us remembering how Jane Kleeb and Randy Thompson spoke at St. Stephen’s Episcopal and, unbeknownst then to any of us, started us on the road to this rally. 
A movement of people meeting people:
    Hi, I’m Juanita Rice from Fairmont. (Hadn’t she been in theater when we  were in school?)
    Are all of you students from Wesleyan?
    Brit with his new adventure in filming events, whose daughter studies prairie restoration. 
    Brock, the Omaha Marathon runner, from our hometown.
    Shelley Clark, poet and teacher—some of her students were there.
    Our good friend from New York, Tom Gallagher.
    Someone in former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s Halloween Costume—a packing barrel looking like a leaky pipeline. 
From the far-off stage, or over the jumbotron, the extraordinary wit and zeal of the Hip-Hop Caucus emcee, The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, kept a freezing crowd moving.  Next to us it was up with the blanket and the children’s snacks and the children, then hip, hop, move; hip, hop, move. 
More speeches, more moving, clear from near 14th Street until we were centered on the White House. 
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island urging his colleagues to listen to the science, to start acting.  (Why can’t we all have Congressional representatives who care about the future?) Billionaire investment counselor Thomas Steyer explaining why wind and solar are smarter investments.  The challenge to President Obama—be the first world leader to say “no” to a project simply because it is bad for the environment.
Then finally off down the slope to Constitution Avenue, following the banners, where a band of drums and tubas and trumpets joined us and soon attracted a dancing second line. Over to 17th, up 17th, to Pennsylvania Avenue, then down to the White House, shouting our slogans.   “Hey, hey, ho, ho; the XL Pipeline’s got to go.”  “We are unstoppable, a better world is possible” soon morphed into “We are responsible, a better world is possible.”  
The band struck up “This Little Gospel Light of Mine” just as we got to the inauguration viewing stand.  All around the whole wide world: the homes of family and friends where we were graciously hosted for dinner in the DC area, back in Nebraska where friends and family were cheering us on, down to Florida where the President was golfing with Tiger Woods, clear to Bangladesh where, if we don’t act now, there will be 40 million victims of climate change by 2050. 
They report the number at the rally, but seldom mention the number who will starve to death, who have no voice other than ours. 
We gave them our voice in speeches and slogans and songs.  We had done what little we could to make our little light shine.  As Senator Whitehouse said, “We are going to look at our grandchildren and say, ‘Yes, we did!’” If Van Jones was right that 20 years from now this will be the only presidential decision anyone remembers, then we thousands there and tens of thousands at home can say, we helped the President make the right decision. 
At the pub that hosted our evening preparations for the Sunday rally, a writer from Minnesota (seems they are building or expanding pipelines everywhere these days) said, “This is not a battle.  It’s the last battle.  Lose now, and we are all lost for good.”  All around the whole wide world.