I am not known as a walker. Twice recently I walked 10 km in solidarity with Mi’kmaw water protectors. I plan to join a walk for peace and justice in India in October. I have been inspired to walk by three movements in different parts of the world where people are standing up – and walking – to create a climate just world. I truly believe each step they take will make a difference.
The first movement, started by Indigenous women in North America, is a ceremonial walk in prayer to protect the waters of the world and raise awareness about the significance of water as life. Guided by ceremony, Annishnabe Elder Josephine Mandamin started the walks in 2003, and there are now numerous groups across Turtle Island who are walking for the water. The Wabanaki Water Walk 2019, that I was able to join, is a trek of 850 km from Nova Scotia, Canada to Maine, USA led by Mi’kmaw grandmother Dorene Bernard. Dorene has explained:
Many people have now awakened to the crisis that our Mother Earth is in, and the sacredness of water. The Wabanaki Water Walk is a ceremony for the women to carry the water in prayer to honor our Mother Earth and Sacred Waters in gratitude for all that is needed to live. We pray for the protection and healing that is needed for our Mother Earth and waters and for all our relations so that our next generations will always have clean water to drink, clean food and medicines and will always know the sacredness of water.
The second movement is a walk of 10,000 km from New Delhi, India to Geneva, Switzerland that will commence on 5 October 2019 and take over one year to complete. This march, under the name JaiJagat2020.org, is a social movement for justice and peace through non-violence that is raising awareness on global environmental challenges as one of its central themes. Rajgopal PV, an Indian social activist who has worked for decades on people’s rights for land, water and forests is one of the catalysts for the march. Rajgopal has said:
We have only one earth, this is our responsibility to protect this planet and hand it over to the next generation. In India, 65% of people’s livelihoods depend on land, forest and water. This non-violent popular movement is to help the poorest people of India regain their control over these three resources that are most important for their survival. Young people are also asking for an opportunity to change.
The third movement is made up of thousands of groups of young people in hundreds of countries around the world who have gone on strike from school to raise awareness about the climate crisis. These groups, loosely networked under the name FridaysforFuture.org, were inspired by 16 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg from Sweden, and have motivated millions. On 15 of March this year The Guardian newspaper reported over one million young people in 2000 protests in 125 countries left school to protest government inaction on climate change. Gatherings have continued on Fridays the past few months and will carry-on. The actions of these young people give me great hope. On June 7th Greta Thunberg was honoured with an award by Amnesty International. Amnesty’s Secretary General said:
We are humbled and inspired by the determination with which youth activists across the world are challenging us all to confront the realities of the climate crisis. Every young person taking part in Fridays for Future embodies what it means to act on your conscience. They remind us that we are more powerful than we know and that we all have a role to play in protecting human rights against climate catastrophe.
The actions taken by people in these three movements are inspiring. These actions are taken by individuals. Individuals who have stood up, and taken steps (or in the case of some of the young strikers, sat down) to be seen and to let others know they care about the future of this planet. Their actions have reminded me of an inspiring book I read years ago, We Make the Road by Walking: conversations on education and social change. This book, a conversation between two great adult educators, Paulo Freire of Brazil and Myles Horton, of the Highlander Center in the USA, challenges us to engage with, and create the road to the future we want, by being active and walking that road. Their thoughtful discussion has been called “a dialogue at the pace of a reflective walk” and perhaps there is a message here about engaging with our world in a powerful and principled way, but always at a thoughtful, walking pace, observing the context of the environment we are walking within in order to make the kind of change we want.
Many others have walked for peace and justice down through history. I have walked in solidarity before. But, perhaps those walking in these three movements today will become known as those who created the climate just world we all strive for. They will certainly be learning for change as they walk together, have conversations, and take a stand on climate issues. Each step is their active engagement in positive change for the world we love.
Will you be walking for the future of our planet?