The Power of Showing Up
On Sunday, September 21, my 7 year old daughter and I drove from Corvallis to Eugene to participate in the Eugene People’s Climate March, one of many solidarity marches organized across the world to amplify the NYC People’s Climate March. My daughter made the signs while sitting in the backseat, occasionally holding them up so I could see them in the rearview mirror. Though it took me a minute to decipher what “prect the reth!” meant, the content on her signs was easy to understand. Cars powered by the sun. People holding hands and saying “It’s everyone’s planet!” And in a nod to her favorite song “Everything is Awesome” from the Lego movie, two stick people discussed whether they should go to a place called “Awesome” or to a place called “Non-Awesome”. "Non-Awesome" was defined as the place which destroys the earth and was drawn with a large X through it. (I'm thinking "Awesome" is a better choice). There were some vowels missing and a few extra consonants added but I didn’t care. She was engaged and participating - she was showing up.
In February 2013, while living in Chicago, I took the overnight bus to Washington DC to participate in the Forward On Climate Rally. Around 50,000 people showed up on a frigid day at the Washington Mall to protest the Keystone Pipeline and sound the bell on climate change. Marching around the White House with 50,000 people was an incredible experience. I also met two of my heroes that day, first Naomi Klein and then Bill McKibben. Until the 21st of September, the DC rally was the largest climate rally held to date in the U.S.
The Eugene event, though small compared to DC or NYC, still attracted hundreds of energetic people. Halfway through the march, however, while chanting with the crowd, I felt a twinge of self-doubt. Did this matter? Was it worth driving 45 minutes? Will this make a difference? Will my walk around Eugene holding a sign about a place called Non-Awesome affect climate change policy or slow rising levels of C02? Before discouraging thoughts took over I heard one of the organizers on a loudspeaker say, “Your presence gives others courage! When you show up, it encourages others to be bold and show up!”
If everyone thought their presence made no difference, no one would show up. But that’s the awesome (to steal my daughter’s favorite word) power of organizing, mobilization and collective voices. One can lead to two, which can lead to twenty, which can lead to thousands. On Sunday, 40,000 showed up in London. 10,000 showed up in Paris. People marched in Bogota and Kiribati and Adelaide and Portland and Tanzania and Nepal and Sonoma. There were over 2,808 events with hundreds of thousands of people showing up in 166 countries. And in NYC, over 400,000 showed up, believing their presence mattered and their voice deserved to be heard.
To those we marched with in Eugene and to my daughter Jane, thank you for showing up.