Monday, September 22, 2014

Silence and Shouting: Climate March Reflections

So there we were shouting, singing, waving flags and carrying signs that read “There is no Planet B” and “Butterflies against the end of the world” as we marched 300,000 strong in Manhattan on Sunday at the People’s Climate March. But, in spite of the thrill of the March and the inspiration of the songs, the sight that struck the deepest chord in my heart was this: twenty or so people on a hill in Central park utterly still, utterly silent, holding an “Earth Vigil,” meditating, praying for creation itself and the salvation of our civilization from its destructive, errant ways.

The silent energy palpably radiating from these solemn folks spoke to me more loudly than all the wonderful, noisy energy we made to “sound an alarm” to the world leaders gathering at the U.N. this week.

A Mighty Tide of Witness

Of course, the intentional noise of the March had its own integrity and delight. There were so many participants that the organizers begging some people toward the end of the line, over two miles long, to leave the parade and walk along the parade route as spectators. Those of us in the “religious and scientific groups” section filled 58th street as we waited over an hour after our announced “join the march” before we set out—an encouraging sign that more than the expected 200,000 participants had come.

And come they did! As my small group from Summit, NJ boarded the train for New York, we met a family of five who had driven up from Virginia at the last minute to be “part of history.” Hanging ecumenically between the Episcopalians and Presbyterians as we waited, I met a young priest from Portland, Oregon and a woman from the Diocese of New Mexico whose Bishop, she said, is solidly behind increasing awareness of climate change. Church groups were there from Pennsylvania, Boston, California. The Hare Krishna folks in orange mingled with Muslims in white caftans. The “agnostics” and “spiritual seeker” groups stood in solidarity with Congregationalists and Catholics.

Among other groups of marchers, environmental activists and union members voiced their concern together with “clean energy creates new jobs," liberal and conservative, young and old alike were united in this urgent and pressing Cause.

Bearing Witness—How?

But it’s the Silent Earth Witness folks that haunt me still. Their solemn faces bore witness to the seriousness of climate change. Recent scientific data confirms that earth’s temperature continues to rise, whatever the climate change deniers may say. Some projections see serious challenges to future food supply as well as the well-publicized effects of rising oceans.

We need the boisterous marches and rallies, and more of them. Persistently.  But what if we also had silent gatherings, again and again—dozens, hundreds, thousands facing the statehouses, ringing the Capitol, in utter stillness proclaiming our deep, deep prayer for humanity, civilization and the earth?

See The NYTimes coverage at

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