“Our Power” was the cornerstone of my cross country voyage on the People’s Climate Train and march in New York City. “Our Power” is coined by the Climate Justice Alliance and focuses on empowering local living communities in just transitions and a radical shift from extreme energy use and dependence. More philosophically, Our Power represents the power which we as a people have. In my three mile march during the people’s climate demonstration, that power was exemplified. A moment of silence at 12:58pm in midtown New York City would have been unfathomable for me, prior to participating in that very act. I saw Our Power in people’s ability to come together in solidarity, to tell our stories, and to hold our world leaders accountable for the power we have given them.
The tide of the climate justice movement is indeed turning. As the global crisis increases, there is a heightened focus on communities at the “frontline” of the rising threat. These communities must be distinctly proactive in planning adaptation strategies, while concurrently the broader movement can focus on promoting climate resiliency plans. These frontline communities, interestingly enough, parallel those which have been historically marginalized – low-income, minority and indigenous. Throughout my entire experience, this recurring theme to hoist up frontline communities to the forefront of this movement resulted in conversations about systemic oppression, racism, classism, and fundamental challenges to the divisive nature of capitalism. In this sense, I can now see how the climate justice movement is becoming a global catalyst for an intersectional anti-oppression revolution.
Our Power has purpose in my life going forward. I feel a tremendous sense of duty, responsibility, and reinforced dedication to continue work within the environmental justice movement. I also realize that our work as an organization, as members of the Berkeley and East Bay community, and as individuals, must consistently be taken to the next level. While we are fortunate to be aware of the impending climate crisis, we must continue to spread and raise consciousness about climate change in our communities – across cultural and socio-economic lines. Our Power is the power of storytelling. In telling my own story, how I got involved in this work with the Ecology Center, how my work has been personally transformative, and how it has helped me find my place in this movement, I was able to connect with an eclectic alliance of people from across the world. To feel valued, to be heard, and to be honored as a part of a broad coalition fighting for climate justice is integral to making the broader movement welcoming to a younger, more diverse generation of climate activists. From my experience throughout the people’s climate train and demonstration activities, it is clear to me that we must prioritize broader inclusion and empowerment if we hope to accelerate the impact of our efforts.
Our Power is our movement. I would implore my colleagues, our allies, and our members to aid in perpetuating this next phase. In whatever way we can aid marginalized communities in having their voice heard, we should be doing so. In whatever way we can embolden people to feel comfortable telling their stories, as it relates to the climate crisis, we should make space for that. That is an actionable task – one that I know we will grow to prioritize in the coming days, months, and years. The “frontline” of the climate crisis is ever-increasing – and it will take solidarity and universal support to insulate our planet from a proliferated threat.
Through funding from The Artisan Hub, Ecology Center staffer Kad Smith was on the People’s Climate Train with hundreds of other climate activists. The train took them cross country to New York City for the largest climate march in history on Sep 21. To read more about his experience, check out his blog, www.kadsmith.com.