Wednesday, October 15, 2014

People's Climate March, Part 2: Video Report: Riding People's Climate Train to New York

By Michele Bourdieu

On Sept. 19, 2014, Amtrak passengers riding a People's Climate Train assemble for a group photo at a train stop in Buffalo, NY, on the way to New York City for a weekend of workshops, meetings, lectures by climate activist leaders and the Sunday, Sept. 21,  People's Climate March. Some stayed in New York on Monday, Sept. 22, for a Flood Wall Street march as well. Pictured with the group are Houghton residents Allan Baker, Keweenaw Now videographer, and his wife, Shirley Galbraith, Keweenaw Now guest author (second row, seated right).* (Photo by Gustavo Bourdieu for Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- The Amtrak train for New York City, dubbed the "People's Climate Train" by passengers who boarded it in San Francisco, picked up more passengers bound for the Sept. 21 People's Climate March along the way. Amtrak arranged for the group to be seated together in two cars, which facilitated a day of presentations, workshops and discussions on various climate change issues -- and networking among both young and old. A spirit of camaraderie and solidarity prevailed.

Susan Riederer, co-chair of the Boulder, Colo., Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) chapter, was one of the organizers of talks and discussions on the People's Climate Train.

Keweenaw Now staff boarded the train in Chicago at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18. Friday was a long day, especially since a health emergency on the train caused a delay of several hours; yet the nearly 24-hour ride from Chicago to New York City was nothing to those people we met who had been riding the train since California and other points west.

One of these, Diana Cabcabin of San Francisco, gave a presentation about Typhoon Haiyan, which had affected her family directly since it struck their town in the Philippines:

During workshops on the People's Climate Train on the way to New York City on Sept. 19, 2014, Diana Cabcabin of San Francisco talks about Typhoon Haiyan, which struck her family's home town in the Philippines. In a later presentation, Cabcabin speaks about mining companies that exploit poor communities in the Philippines. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Cabcabin is a member of Women for Genuine Security, a group that advocates for justice and educates the public about historical inequities. She questioned the value of trade agreements in the Asia Pacific region that favor large corporations rather than people in poor communities vulnerable to impacts of climate change.

A California journalist and author, Christopher Cook, spoke about the relationship between climate change and industrial agriculture with large-scale food production:

San Francisco journalist and author Christopher Cook notes that industrial, concentrated agriculture around the world produces great amounts of toxic pollution and carbon emissions while making it difficult for subsistence and small-scale farmers to survive. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Cook, who is the author of Diet for a Dead Planet, also published an article on riding the train from San Francisco. He actually filed the article when the train stopped in Chicago, and it was posted on Sept. 19.**

Activist James Blakely of Boise, Idaho, said he also boarded the train in San Francisco. He spoke about his recent experience in Alberta, Canada -- participating in the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk with First Nations people who are most immediately impacted by this industry:

James Blakely of Boise, Idaho, recounts his participation in the 4th Annual Tar Sands Healing Walk in Alberta, Canada. led by First Nations tribes of the area. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)***

Blakely pointed out that the boreal forests, once rich in biodiversity, are destroyed to enable the industry to mine the tar sands. The process puts so many toxins into the environment that the First Nations people can no longer hunt and fish as they used to do for subsistence.

"The only real jobs up there are for the oil companies, so they're now almost forced to work for the oil companies or leave their land," he said.

According to Lemmon McMillan of Evanston, Ill., talking about climate issues must include the intersectionality of poverty, racism and gender inequality. These social justice issues, along with government corruption and U.S. foreign policy, are all connected, he says.

Lemmon McMillan of Evanston, Ill., joins in the discussion of climate change and insists it must be discussed in connection with social justice issues, especially poverty and racism. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

McMillan, whose own heritage includes Native American and African American roots, is working on a series of videos intended to discuss these issues and how they are all related.

McMillan said he spoke with teenagers from an African American community on the south side of Chicago and one asked him why he should be concerned about climate change that might kill him in 20 or 30 years when he's facing situations (police or gang members) that could kill him now.

"The climate movement needs to answer that question," McMillan said. "We all have to support each other and understand that all our issues are related."

Two other Illinois residents -- Jill Paulus of Wheaton, Ill., and Joyce Good of Chicago -- spoke about an environmental issue that is now impacting people of many different socio-economic groups -- fracking:

Jill Paulus of Wheaton, Illinois, and Joyce Good of Chicago speak about fracking in Illinois and legislation to regulate it. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Paulus and Good spoke about citizens' grassroots efforts to learn about legislative "rules" for fracking and the importance of participation in public hearings on the issue.

The climate movement, led by and other groups, more recently has been encouraging students on college campuses to influence their colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. This divestment takes as a model the divestment from South Africa which helped to end the unjust apartheid system.

On the People's Climate Train, Becky Romatoski, a graduate student at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), spoke optimistically about increasing numbers of colleges, students and faculty now beginning to divest from companies that produce fossil fuels:

Rebecca ("Becky") Romatoski, a doctoral candidate in nuclear science and engineering at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), talks about students, faculty and colleges that are divesting from fossil fuel companies. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

"The biggest issue is not hurting these people (fossil fuel companies) financially, but hurting them on a moral level," Romatoski said.

Romatoski is a member of the student group Fossil Free MIT. After the Sept. 21 People's Climate March, she wrote to Keweenaw Now saying the march was a great way to recruit more MIT students for that group, which is active in raising awareness of climate change on campus.****

"Our group right now has succeeded in getting MIT to have a committee on climate change which will propose actions for MIT, and our group has secured divestment as one key aspect the committee will consider," Romatoski writes.

 As for the People's Climate Train, she notes it was a great and unique experience.

"I will never forget it and the empowerment and excitement from the experience!" Romatoski adds.

Amanda Gabryszak boarded the train in Salt Lake City and, once she realized it was a People's Climate Train, joined in the discussions and workshops, played her guitar in the lounge and regretted that she had to get off in Buffalo, NY, and was unable to attend the Climate March.

Amanda Gabryszak took this photo on the People's Climate Train and wrote a blog article on her experience, noting she even led a workshop on conservation biology. Keweenaw Now's videographer, Allan Baker, is pictured here in the aisle. While people often had to stand in the aisle to hear the speakers, they were very considerate about making room for other passengers passing through the cars. (Photo © and courtesy Amanda Gabryszak. Reprinted with permission.)*****

Susan Riederer, co-chair of the Boulder, Colo., chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, also commented about the positive experience of the People's Climate Train, the Climate March and the Flood Wall Street action, in which she also participated.

"I am still on a high from our time together (on the train), the march and then my time with the Flood Wall Street direct action," she wrote in an email to Keweenaw Now last week.

Here Riederer speaks about the Citizens' Climate Lobby:

During the workshops held on the People's Climate Train Susan Riederer of Boulder, Colo., describes her experience working with the Citizens' Climate Lobby. (Video by Keweenaw Now)******

Another speaker who rode the train from San Francisco -- Pete Gang, an architect from Petaluma, Calif. -- explained the connection between green building and climate change:

Architect Pete Gang of Petaluma, Calif., speaks about green building and climate change. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Gang pointed out that at least 40 percent of all energy is used in the making and operation of buildings. In addition, 50 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings is used for heating and cooling space and water.

"Green building is a very simple idea -- just trying to make buildings that are more energy efficient, resource efficient and people friendly," Gang explained, "because actually a lot of buildings that we build, especially commercial buildings, are full of chemicals that are known to be toxic to humans."

Gang said he has designed green residential buildings with a range of alternative techniques, including straw-bale, which is an agricultural waste product that could be put to better use as wall insulation. His guidelines for building an energy efficient house follow this order: 1) reduce the demand by designing the building so it needs minimal energy for heating or cooling (with insulation, windows, size, etc.); 2) use energy-efficient appliances; 3) use renewables like solar and wind to provide energy.

Three activists planning to participate in the Sept. 22 Flood Wall Street action spoke about action and civil disobedience, encouraging listeners to take training that would be provided in New York before committing to a civil disobedience action. They also explained that supporters would also be needed for those who may get arrested.

Aaron "iLLLy" Murphy described his own efforts to find active solutions to the climate problem:

Aaron "iLLLy" Murphy suggests possible solutions to the climate problem, including his own experience living in an intentional community, Dancing Rabbit Eco-Village in Missouri. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Illinois resident Hillary Colby described her experience with civil disobedience in Chicago:

Illinois resident Hillary Colby speaks about her experience as one of the original Chicago 22 who risked arrest in front of the federal building in Chicago during a protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline in June 2012. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Bobby Wengronowitz, a graduate student at Boston College and one of the organizers of the workshops and talks on the People's Climate Train, shared his views on why "putting your bodies on the street" in the Climate March is a good beginning and why the Flood Wall Street action is even more important:

Activist Bobby Wengronowitz emphasizes the importance of the Flood Wall Street action planned for Sept. 22, 2014, in New York City (a day after the People's Climate March). (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Regina Birchem of Minneapolis, a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, said she chose to ride the People's Climate Train to New York rather than taking a bus from Minneapolis because of a train experience she had in 1995 -- traveling from Helsinki to Beijing for the 4th World Conference of Women:

Regina Birchem of Minneapolis explains how a 1995 train ride with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom -- from Helsinki to Beijing for the 4th World Conference of Women -- inspired her to take the People's Climate Train to the 2014 People's Climate March in New York. (Video by Keweenaw Now)

Finally, as the train approached Penn Station late Friday evening, Jorge Arauz of Ecuador, who now lives in Madison, Wis., told Keweenaw Now why he was heading for the People's Climate March.

Jorge Arauz of Madison, Wis., displays the sign he made to take to the People's Climate March. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"It's just painful to live every day seeing what's happened," Arauz said. "It's outrageous to see the inaction of our leaders."

Soon Arauz was leading the group in a song titled "Sing for the Climate":

As the People's Climate Train approaches New York City on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, travelers keep up their spirits and motivation as they join in singing.

* This is the second in a series of articles about the People's Climate March and related events Sept. 19-22, 2014, in New York City. Shirley Galbraith is the author of "People's Climate March, Part 1, Letter: Houghton couple travel to New York to march for planet's future," posted on Keweenaw Now Sept. 30, 2014.

** See Christopher Cook's article, "All Aboard the People’s Climate Train," posted Sept. 19, 2014, on Earth Island Journal.

*** Click here to read more about the Tar Sands Healing Walk.

**** Read about Fossil Free MIT on their Web site.

***** Click here to read Amanda Gabryszak's blog entry on the People's Climate Train.

****** Click here to learn about the Citizens' Climate Lobby.

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