Before It’s Too Late

Guest Post by Rosemary Spalding, Earth Charter Indiana board president. (Part 2 of 2 of a firsthand report on the Sept. 21 People’s Climate March).

My husband Mark and I stayed  in Newark, NJ the night before the People’s Climate March. Early Sunday morning we began to make our way to 66th and Central Park West to meet a new contact from Earth Charter International. As we rode the train from Newark to NYC and then the subway to Central Park, our excitement built as we joined with dozens of others making their way to the march. Smiling people in T-shirts with names of organizations from all over the country packed subway cars that were standing room only.

Photo by Rosemary Spalding

Photo by Rosemary Spalding

When Mark and I emerged from the subway station at 66th Street, several volunteers welcomed us, directing us to our spot in the march. About 30 minutes before the march was to begin, people flowed into the wide street that borders Central Park on the west, filling it from curb to curb. While we stood in the street waiting, I just looked around, taking it all in. People were lined up behind us all the way to 86th St. and in front of us all the way to Columbus Circle.

Photo of Columbus Circle by Rosemary Spalding

Photo of Columbus Circle by Rosemary Spalding

It was crowded, and we learned later that many marchers couldn’t even fit in the street until the march had progressed several blocks. Many people carried homemade signs and some wore costumes. But most were simply there—joining in solidarity with others to demonstrate before our government and other world leaders gathering for the United Nations summit, that we demand action to address this urgent global crisis.

Communities displaced by climate change marched  in the demonstration. Photo by Christine Irvine.

Communities displaced by climate change marched in the demonstration. Photo by Christine Irvine.

And then the most exciting thing happened! I saw someone making his way through the crowd, like a salmon swimming upstream, coming towards me. As he drew closer I realized I recognized him. Like a teenaged groupie at a rock concert, I yelled, “LOOK, IT’S BILL McKIBBEN!”

I immediately felt foolish, but he looked over at me and smiled as he passed, never missing a step. I think I said “thank you” as he walked by. By the time I could get my iPhone out, he had been swallowed up by the upstream crowd that parted to let him pass.

Photo by Emma Cassidy

Photo by Emma Cassidy

As we walked the two miles past famous landmarks and through Times Square, hundreds of supporters on the sidewalks waved us by. We never saw a single person who challenged our message. Every so often throughout the march, a thunderous “sound wave” would come from in front of or behind us, and we would raise our voices and play musical instruments as the wave passed through on its way to the beginning or end of the march. Goosebumps!

At the end of the march people gathered for entertainment at several stages. I watched the Raging Grannies as they sang their versions of “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Roll Back the Barrels,” and “The Climate—It is A-Changin’.” Music and humor—welcome relief for such a serious subject.

Over 400,000 people marched in New York City that Sunday. Add to that the thousands attending local climate marches all over the country and the world, and you know that we cannot be dismissed as radical tree-huggers.

To the contrary—the People’s Climate March was mainstream. We witnessed an incredibly diverse collection of people of all ages and from all walks of life; people from every state and many nations; people of every color and culture; labor unions and healthcare workers; youth groups, college students and professors, parents and grandparents. All marching, singing and chanting for a common purpose—to say that we, the citizens of the world, recognize the direness of our situation and unite to convince our leaders to change course before it’s too late.

Photo by Amy Dewan

Photo by Amy Dewan

As Mark and I traveled back to Newark, exhausted but exhilarated from the day’s experience, I wondered—did we make a difference? I said a silent prayer: This time let those in power take notice; let meaningful change finally occur.

Rosemary Spalding is board president of Earth Charter Indiana and a founding member of the Irvington Green Initiative. She is an attorney with Spalding & Hilmes, PC, which is located in Irvington and concentrates its practice in environmental law.

A Sacred Act

“Healing the wounds of the earth and its people does not require saintliness or a political party, only gumption and persistence. it is not a liberal or a conservative activity; it is a sacred act. It is a massive enterprise undertaken by ordinary citizens everywhere…”

—Paul Hawken, in Blessed Unrest

People's Climate March 2014 NYC
Some 400,000 people demonstrated for climate action in New York City last weekend. (A friend and I went to the youth-led Bloomington rally to help “raise the alarm” about climate change; the best part after the hooting and hollering was singing “We’ve got the whole world in our hands.”)

Stay tuned for a guest post from someone who joined the NYC demonstration.

Calling All Lifelong Learners

Continuing an intermittent series on education
“Crazies only need apply,” jokes Blaire Huntley, speaking of Trade School of Indianapolis’s call for teachers. Previous “crazies” taught such varied topics as law, nail art, beekeeping, creative writing, bookbinding, public speaking, yoga, and even cuddling.

Making this curriculum even more unique: not one cent changes hands. Instead, teachers request items and services in trade for their tutelage.

I took this class last fall: Primitive Natural Cordage with Creek Stewart of Willow Haven Outdoor.

I took this class last fall: Primitive Natural Cordage with Creek Stewart of Willow Haven Outdoor. All it cost me was the stalk of a yucca plant.

TSI is part of a barter-for-knowledge network anchored by Trade School New York, which Blaire encountered when she lived in New York City.

Though she worked eight jobs in NYC and was way too busy to take classes, when she moved to Indy, she brought along her love of learning—and the seed of an idea. Why not start a Trade School in her adopted city? Now, she says, she feels like “the smartest person in the world,” because she gets to learn from so many passionate, creative teachers.

The community embraced the model wholeheartedly. “As people are learning about us, once they know about it, they want to be involved,” says co-founder Brittany West. In the year since its launch, TSI has offered 80 classes. For the fall 2013 semester (October-November), already a record 40 classes have been proposed, and the window to apply is still open.

Compared to other Trade Schools worldwide (there are now 50), “we are always the one with the most classes going on,” says Blaire.

TSI is also one of the few such schools so far sustained without funding. Both women work for free, devoting their off-work hours to coordinating, publicizing, and attending sessions. Classroom space is donated in several venues, including Indy’s Kitchen, where cooking classes are extremely popular.

Art of Indian Cuisine at Indy's Kitchen

Art of Indian Cuisine at Indy’s Kitchen. New this semester: teachers can request items on behalf of an organization. For example, the fall Indian cooking class will be offered in exchange for donations for Gleaners Food Bank.

Brittany says the philosophy behind TSI, that “education should be accessible to everyone,” is a powerful notion. “I love that I can bring an apple or a bag of oranges in exchange for learning these great things.”

People engage with each other differently when payment is made in nonmonetary gifts instead of cash, the women say. It creates a shared experience and a deepened sense of connection.

Blaire and Brittany are looking to crowdfund classroom space for a permanent TSI home, potentially shared with other likeminded community organizations. They envision tripling the number of classes, and offering daytime sessions as well as their current evening classes.

Instructors of Backpacking 101

Instructors of Backpacking 101

Are you a lifelong learner, or someone with a skill to share? Have you experienced the fun of bypassing the money economy and found that you’ve made a deeper connection as a result? Then check out the following:

1.) Go to TSI’s Kickstarter grant appeal (great incentives!) and give what you can before Aug. 31.

2.) (For locals) Plan to attend TSI’s one-year anniversary party September 5, featuring a swap-and-trade area, teacher meet-and-greets, live music, and complimentary Sun King beer.

3.) Propose a class! “We believe everyone has something to offer, so no fancy degrees or certificates required.”

Photos courtesy of Trade School of Indianapolis