Salutations, readers! It’s taken a bit of effort to synthesize 13 pages of journal entries into something cogent, which is why I’ve decided to break this up into parts. Anyhow, I hope that you’ll find this one interesting and check out Part 2!
I composed this astounding, mind-blowing (!) short prose perched on a ledge just outside my apartment building on the morning of our departure…
I chose to sit and soak it up,
The birdsong from a single tree
Contrasted by the cars and trucks —
Their sounds: competing energies
The Choo-Choo Train
of Climate Cool
Will “All aboard” shortly
And we’ll start using our Collective Tool
To rub the Capitalists Coarsely…
Or will we?
The energy on the train, both creative and positive, is having a strong effect on me. I’ve decided to take on a mini-project of interviewing a few climate train riders. On this trip, something notable happened within me: my talent as a listener and question poser came into an existential spotlight. I realized that I could definitely see myself as a journalist – someone who combines strong listening skills with incessant inquisitiveness (I’m notorious the latter – so much so that “Please, stop asking questions” has most definitely crossed the minds of loved ones) and an enthusiasm for writing.
Also worth mentioning was my spontaneous connection with Santiago Obispo, the Coordinator General of the Amazon Cooperation Network (REDCOM) in Venezuela. He had traveled all the way from South America to be on the train representing traditional communities in his region. I decided to dive in and offer to serve as de facto translator, along with my dear friend Ann Puntch. Since I’m all about connecting with Indigenous / underprivileged communities, I was also interested in his story, so I asked if he would be interested in being interviewed.
To make things a tad shinier and more – ugh, dare I say it – professional, I was able to borrow a high-tech professional recording device from my buddy Matt Fu, founder of Hollow Earth Radio up in Washington State. He was very supportive of this spontaneous interview project.
In the spirit of maintaining a critical perspective that does justice to both oppressed peoples and ecosystems globally, I was inspired to pose the following questions about the People’s Climate March that we’re about to undertake, not to mention the climate justice movement. Here’s my rough outline of the process, including a (rather shady (see: quite awful)) Spanish language version:
CLIMATE TRAIN INTERVIEWS
-introduce yourself, what you’re doing, date, location, destination
-introduce interviewee: name, place, org,
-what are your top 2 strengths and top 2 weaknesses?
–>main Eco challenges in their community
–>vision for the climate justice movement
1) what are some outcomes you would like to see from the People’s Climate March? Do you think that those outcomes are likely or not? (Why?)
What would an effective People’s Climate March look like or result in?
2) what are some of the main issues you feel the climate justice movement is dealing with at this time?
3) does the current leadership of the US climate justice movement <<reflect and effect>> the priorities and voices of indigenous communities and communities of color?
4) do you think that global warming is the root problem we face, or is the root problem something else?
Preguntas en español para la entrevista de Santiago Obispo
1) Hola para todas los usuarios y usuarias del mundo entero! Me llamo Colin Murphy, y estoy aquí en el Tren Climático de los Pueblos haciendo una serie de entrevistas. Nosotros ciento y setenta activistas estamos a camino de Nueva Iorque, donde vamos a participar en la mayor evento mundial sobre los cambios climáticos en la historia, la Marcha Climática de los Pueblos, aconteciendo el domingo, 21 de setiembre.
La hecha es 18 de setiembre, y estamos cercano a nuestro destino.
Bueno, estoy honrado a estar aquí con Santiago Obispo, líder indígena de la Amazonía. Buenas tardes, Santiago!
–De dónde es usted originalmente? De cuál pueblo tradicional es?
–Por que empezó a trabajar con los movimientos sociales?
–Cual es su profesión? Que actividad económica desempeña?
–Cuales son dos fortalezas, y dos debilidades?
–Cual es su visión por el movimiento de justicia climática ?
1) Cuales son las cuestiones principales que el movimiento de justicia climática está confrontando ahora?
2) Cree Ud que el liderazgo internacional del movimiento de justicia climática – por ejemplo Bill McKibben de 350.org, o Kumi Naidoo de GreenPeace – refleja y efectúa las prioridades e voces de pueblos indígenas, comunidades tradicionales y afro-descendentes?
3) Piensa Ud que el problema de raíz que enfrentamos es los cambios climáticos, o son otros problemas?
4) Hay algunas palabras que le gustaría a decir para resumir?
By the end of the trip, I had interviewed Kad Smith of The Ecology Center (www.kadsmith.com), Shankar M. of Sunnyvale, and Santiago Obispo.
Frankly, I believe that the climate justice movement is not decolonized just yet. The leadership remains mostly white and male. Patriarchy reigns, as the movement’s leadership indicates, at a time when female leadership is most direly needed to steer – no, jerk – the species off of its course of suicide, and biocide.
Interestingly though, a wave of female leaders, both seasoned and new, have emerged who are keeping it real when it comes to what needs to be done to save the biosphere/humanity. The likes of the founders of Idle No More, including Pennie Opal Plant of the SF Bay Area, as well as renown intellectuals Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein and Vandana Shiva are so important precisely because they really seem to get it; they actively support indigenous rights to water, land, food sovereignty, and cultural integrity. They also have a way of inspiring us with truthful words about the political economy, and about the state of affairs on Earth.
Participants: Eddy, Matt, Colin
Topics discussed: decolonization, bioregionalism, anti-civilization, Cascadia, local ecojustice politics, tribal politics
This conversation featured three men, all white. I was pleasantly surprised – relieved, in fact – at how sophisticated the politics of Eddy Uri and Matt Fu are with regards to social justice. They were informed and seemed to be fully supportive of decolonization. Moreover, they’re wonderful people; warm, not pedantic, but eager to share their knowledge.
Workshop: Transsexual/queer allyship
First of all, I’d like to remark that I’m grateful this workshop is taking place. As a non-heterosexual man who knows his stuff when it comes to queer theory/LGBTQ issues, it’s always comforting when someone opens up a queer-friendly space for dialogue. The advantage of having a transsexual/queer allyship workshop is that we queers have the opportunity to clarify some very complex terms, ideas, realities for those activists on the train who may not be familiar, let alone have any contact, with them.
Some of the topics we discussed were gender identity, cis-gender, gender expression, gender queer, queer, sexual orientation, transsexual (mostly clinical term; indicates that you’ve transitioned physically from one sex to another) v. transgender (no physical sexual transition), transvestite, cross-dresser, internalized homophobia, asexual.
Participants: Rosalyn, Colin, Dara, Milo
This was a memorable conversation indeed. I remember Rosalyn seated on the table in the Observation Car, with gorgeous Rocky Mountain ridges passing behind her as she slung words with an intense passion and elocutive skill not too common among young people. In retrospect, I think to myself: Hers is the face of the climate justice movement – dark-skinned, female, from an oppressed community, with a difficult history; intelligent, cunning, charismatic, and already taking necessary action to avert disaster.
We conversed about two organizations still fresh in my mind from the Our Power Convening: the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJA), the Our Power Campaign, and the need for intercultural healing/racial justice in the climate movement. I brought up the harsh reality that segregation along racial and class lines persists, perpetuating and exacerbating many societal problems in the United States.
What comes to mind when I recall my experience of this conversation and others is a feeling of connection via intellectual cross-pollination. Our minds were juicing the fruits of their labor, eking out “liquid” nourishment, each one of us imbibing the other’s, leaving everyone nourished and more satisfied.
During this chat, Rosalyn planted the seeds for what was to be a remarkable event – the fish bowl discussion of the People’s Climate Train ridership in the suitably glorious Great Hall of Chicago Union Station.
Participants: Emily, Colin
At the suggestion of Stephanie Hervey of The Artisan Hub, I decided to descend into the cafe car to bater o papo with Emili Abdel-Ghany, lead organizer of the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC). I remember her sitting at the corner of the booth, poised right up against the window. The timing couldn’t have been better for the conversation, as the Rocky Mountain valleys began rolling past us. The timing couldn’t have been better seasonally, as the leaf-fall trees’ leaves began to pre-fall, turning a gorgeous yellow. Meanwhile, the sun – ideally poised, like so many other things on this trip – garnished the pre-fall leaves with a glistening that instilled in me an immense sensation of beauty and interconnectedness. When nature presents itself in its pristine beauty like it did in those valleys, through people on that Train, I feel a sense of release – an emotion that combines being unafraid to die, satisfaction with life, gratitude, and joy. Perhaps it’s time to create a new word for that emotion…
On to the conversation itself. Like the queer allyship workshop, it made me feel more at home to reconnect with someone whose involvement in the CSSC had forever changed them. We started out the chat with my story. I gave Emili the nutshell version – how I became chair of the CSSC’s UC Irvine chapter, my attendance at various leadership retreats and convergences of the group. I recounted how I facilitated a coalition of student groups, including government, to get The Green Initiative Fund passed on our campus, and so on and so forth. Most importantly, I recalled how much CSSC had taught me how to be a better communicator, a more compassionate organizer, and basic facilitation / consensus decision-making skills.
Emili impressed me with her rather stellar record, having moved quickly up the ranks of the CSSC to be Organizing Team Chair, Convergence Coordinator, etc. Similar to the conversation I had with Eddy and Matt, the white guys who turned out to be extremely not too shabby, I was very satisfied that we’re both more or less on the same wavelength politically. Namely, we agree that the mainstream climate movement’s narratives of “Do the Math,” focusing more or less exclusively on the scientific and logical aspects of the issues, are flawed because they don’t put people of color and Indigenous communities front and center. Implicitly, narratives to date that leaders have been using to convince the public of the urgency of global warming have failed because they’ve largely relied too dearly on logos, or logic, whereas the Koch Brothers and others have utilized pathos much more effectively to appeal to people’s hearts and minds. In other words, the climate justice movement must put forth narratives that appeal to more than just people’s logic, since we need to move people’s hearts and minds. We’re fighting a war of narratives here; logic and science are already on our sides. For a more intricate explanation of this, check out the Oakland-based Center for Story-Based Strategy’s website.
Many, many thanks for supporting this citizen journalism by yours truly, and do stay tuned for Part 2!