By Anita Payne
What is the Great March for Climate Action?
The goal of the march is to change the heart and mind of America and its elected leaders to act NOW to address the climate crisis. It is modelled on the Great Peace March of 1986 which helped mobilize public support for key peace initiatives such as a ban on nuclear testing. March organizers hope 1000 people will walk from Los Angeles, CA (starting March 1, 2014) to Washington, DC (arriving November 1, 2014). Other marches have been critical catalysts for mobilizing mass movements of people on behalf of peace, justice, equality and political reform.
A retired science teacher and climate activist, I will join the first and last parts of the Climate March, walking a total of 1000 miles. I will carry a Canadian flag and hope to pass it on to other Canadians to carry for the whole March. People may join the March for one day or more. More marchers are urgently needed. With less than two months before the start of the march there are about 200 registered marchers, some full time and some part-time and from 6 different countries. While it is a major commitment to leave your life behind to join the march for eight months, anyone who can march for even one day will be welcomed and appreciated.
Part of the problem in attracting Climate March participants is the difficulty in getting the word out. The national media have been reluctant to pick up the story so far. However many articles have been published about marchers in their local media and on blogs. http://climatemarch.org/give-the-climate-crisis-the-attention-it-deserves/ A number of prominent people and environmental groups have endorsed the march.
Why join the American March?
When I first heard about this march, my reaction was to do something similar in Canada. However, I soon came to realize that the best strategy is to join this march. The group organizing the Climate March has been working on this for almost a year and to do something similar in Canada would require start up funding and a commitment from many Canadians to support the event. The march in the USA has greater potential for influencing public opinion and political action. President Obama is committed to act on climate change while the Canadian government will not take any action without the lead of the Americans. The US also has a much larger economy than we do and more influence on the global community. Participating in the march is a signal to fellow Canadians and our government that that they need to take serious action on climate change now.
Who is Marching?
One woman walked across America on the Peace March and will do it again on the Climate March. A family of six will also do the whole march. Other marchers include a retired minister, a retired therapist turned environmentalist and several students. Almost half of the registered marchers are youth under 21 years of age. It will be an amazing lifetime experience for them. A really awesome thing to talk about when asked what they did on their summer vacation!
What will the march involve?
Marchers will be walking 14-15 miles per day, six days a week. Everyone will help with camping/cooking duties. Gear will be transported by low carbon means. Community events will be held along the way. Once we reach Washington, DC we will lobby politicians and hold an enormous public rally as well. People who are marching for more than one day are expected to fundraise $20 per day towards their food and other costs associated with the march. A fundraising site is being used to help with this.
How Can Canadians Participate in the Great March for Climate Action?
If you are unable to participate in the whole march, check out the Timeline page of the website for the dates the march will arrive at various points and choose a segment that suits you. The Route page lists the communities through which the march will travel. Canadians in southern Ontario may choose to join the march as it goes through northern Indiana, Ohio and/or Pennsylvania (in September-October) which will be the closest segment to home.
What if you are interested but not sure that you can physically do it?
There are a lot of things that I thought that I would never be able to physically do. However with encouragement from others and some training, I have always been able to do everything that I tried. This includes doing short distance triathlons and running the Perth Kilt Run (5 miles). Walking is something that most of us can do and is not that difficult to train for. Try to walk every day and walk a little further each time. Preparing for a long march is as much a psychological challenge as a physical one. Chatting with other marchers on the Facebook. page helps.
How Can You Participate in the Great March for Climate Action?
Go to climatemarch.org to see more information about the March. There is an online application form to apply to march. Contact Zach Heffernen, Marcher Director, or Anita Payne, Canadian marcher if you have questions.
Please spread the word to anyone who may be interested in participating or supporting the Climate March (climatemarch.org). You can also connect with Anita on her Facebook page.
Even if you cannot march, you can help by forwarding this information as widely as possible. And for every $20 donation towards my march I will wear a photo of your loved one for a day on the march and then I will sew the photos together to make a banner. I will start by honouring my granddaughter. She is a big reason that I am doing this.