When the planning began, four or so months ago, for what became a nine-day, 175 mile, 2021 Walk For Our Grandchildren that ended two days ago, the pandemic was still strong. It was weakening, as the Biden Administration from day one made its defeat its top priority, but up until a month or so ago the first thing we talked about on our weekly Walk planning calls was the pandemic and if we should keep moving forward, or adjusting, our planning.
Biden and his administration deserve credit for their leadership on this huge issue. But when it comes to the existential issue of the deepening climate emergency, it’s a different story. And that is why from June 20 to June 28, from Scranton, Pa. to Wilmington, De., from Biden’s birthplace to his current home, a core group of about 20 people, most but not all grandparents, walked, rode, met with local activists, rallied, picketed, demonstrated and, on the last day in downtown Wilmington, in front of a major Chase Bank corporate headquarters, blocked a major intersection by sitting in 10 rocking chairs, leading to 15 arrests.
200 or more people took part in one or more of the 18 different events over these nine days. 70 organizations supported it, many of them frontline groups fighting fracking and proposed new fossil fuel infrastructure. A highlight of the press coverage we received was in Scranton, where good stories were aired by three local TV stations, and two consecutive days of coverage was given to us by the major local daily newspaper. Two TV networks came to our Independence Hall rally in Philadelphia. A daily Wilmington area paper carried a good story on the civil disobedience action in front of Chase.
All along the way we passed out half-page leaflets which explained why we were walking: “We stand with local people whose air, water and land are being poisoned by oil and gas pollution and whose health is suffering. We demand that Chase Bank stop its massive funding of fossil fuel companies. We call for keeping fossil fuels in the ground to prevent the escalation of destructive weather events for the sake of future generations and all life on earth. The current proposals by the Biden administration to address the climate emergency and many environmental injustices are inadequate. We need a rapid, uncompromising transition away from the extraction and burning of toxic fossil fuels while embracing renewable energy, especially solar and wind power.”
On a daily basis, we were gratified by the support given to us and expressed by people we encountered as we were walking, or who had stepped forward to give us floor space to sleep in their church or temple or lawn space on their property to camp. Local organizers all along the route responded to our plan to undertake this walk and worked with us to organize successful local actions and gatherings. The wonderful people from Seeds of Peace kept us well-fed with their traveling food-service operation.
There were challenges all throughout these nine days: high heat and humidity for about half of them; a strong wind and rain storm that came through Scranton on the second night and forced us to alter our plans for the next day as we dealt with lots of wet tents, clothes and continuing rain for most of the third day; rain on day seven as we walked along the 291 Industrial Highway to Chester and Marcus Hook, Pa.; and just staying on a very packed schedule of walking, actions, public gatherings, walker gatherings and dealing with the logistics of the trip.
We got through all of this because we had to, because there was a shared and openly expressed feeling about how urgent the issues are that we were addressing. That feeling built as we met and talked with local people along the way dealing with the negative impacts of a toxic, extractive, fossil fuel economy, a corporate-dominated economy, which puts profits for a tiny few above the health and wellness of the many. On this walk, we saw, smelled, learned about and were moved, over and over again, by those realities.
Without a doubt, the walk deepened our personal commitments to do all that we can both right now, when Biden and Congress need strong pressure to do the right thing legislatively, and for years to come to change this unjust, unequal, corrupt and polluting system.
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.