A little more than three weeks from now, my wife Jane Califf and I will head west to Scranton, Pa. to join with others in the eight-day, 2021 Walk For Our Grandchildren and Mother Earth: Elders and Youth on the Road to Climate Justice. The Walk begins in Scranton on June 20, Father’s Day, and will end in Wilmington, De. on June 28. On that day we will take nonviolent direct action at a major corporate headquarters of Chase Bank, the world’s leading financial supporter of the fossil fuel industry.
Eight years ago I helped to organize the 2013 Walk For Our Grandchildren, from Camp David in Maryland to the White House via Harpers Ferry. That one ended with about 60 people being arrested at the offices of Environmental Resources Management, the greenwashing company that did the KXL oil pipeline’s official environmental impact statement.
Many of the people who I met and walked with in 2013 ended up joining together the next year to take nonviolent direct action at the headquarters of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, out of which emerged the organization Beyond Extreme Energy. BXE is still going strong, supporting frontline groups fighting new fracked gas infrastructure and advocating with increasing effectiveness for FERC to be replaced by FREC, a Federal Renewable Energy Commission.
For Jane and me this year’s Walk will have one very big difference: as distinct from back then, today we are actual grandparents. Earlier this month, with the pandemic thankfully receding, we spent time in Montana with four month old grandson Rio and our son and daughter-in-law, and unsurprisingly, we fell deeply in love with him.
It helps to personalize why we are working and struggling and fighting, day after day, for a very different future than the one we are facing absent very big societal changes.
Many years ago, in 2006, I did this personalization as I climbed up a ladder onto a ledge about 25 feet above the DC area entrance to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I did so as part of a campaign being conducted by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network the year after Hurricane Katrina, calling upon NOAA to release a study they had done of the connections between global heating and stronger and more destructive hurricanes.
In preparation for this action I practiced climbing up a 32 foot ladder behind the CCAN office. Doing so wasn’t easy because I have a fear of heights. I had to figure out a way of keeping down my fear as I climbed those rungs, and what I did was to think about my two great nieces, 1 and 4 years old at the time, and how I needed to overcome my fear so that, hopefully, their world would be a much better one than today’s. I ended up writing a poem about this experience, “The Ladders, Then and Now, and Abby and Ellie.”
I am sure that as we move from Joe Biden’s birthplace to his Wilmington home town on this year’s Walk, Jane and I will be thinking often about Rio, gaining energy to keep walking in the expected summer heat. But if we weren’t actual grandparents, we would still be taking part.
Right now is a critical time for visible action to demand that President Biden and Democrats in Congress take seriously their responsibility to act now, this summer, as part of the American Jobs Plan, to accelerate the urgently needed shift off of fossil fuels to renewables—solar, wind, moving water and geothermal. It’s time to put a stop to the construction of Line 3 and the building of any new fossil fuel infrastructure, which even the International Energy Agency just last week said must be done if we are to reach the world’s Paris Climate Agreement goals and prevent worldwide climate catastrophe. It’s time to step it up!
(For information on the Walk For Our Grandchildren and to sign up, go to About | 4ourgrandchildren (wixsite.com)
Ted Glick is a volunteer organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy and author of Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left’s Resistance to the Vietnam War, published last year. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://jtglick.com.