7.30am, Amtrak rail station, Emeryville East Bay CA. We arrive into a swirl of people as a great buzz as excitement ripples around the station lobby. James Baraz and Wes Nisker are here to see us of. At the station – our first rally – banners and speeches from a 1st Nation elder, Santiago, from Venezuela, Valerie Love – wondrous all round organizer from Center for Biological Diversity – Ayya Santussika & Pennie Opal Plant 1st Nation Cherokee who said we are the immune system of the planet rising up.
The stationmaster appears. His well practiced voice bellows across the courtyard…finishing his announcement; he requests we write our senators with Amtrak appreciation. His train from California to Chicago is threatened with closure. “Especially write those guys below the Madison Dixie line,” he concludes.
Finally, the great grey California Zephyr pulls in. I have no idea how this is going to work as dozens of us lug our suitcases and burgeoning bags of dry foods along the platform. Cheering us on, another Amtrak worker in orange jacket, his two fists punching up to the sky yelling “Democracy Now.”
We tumble onto the train, 150 of us for now, more joining later. I find my spot. Almost immediately we have our first workshop… Shannon Biggs & Pennie, “Change local laws to stop fossil fuel interests.” “Corporations are not people.” Michael Brune, ED of Sierra Club, “We are the fossil fuel companies worst fu#king nightmare.” (I don’t imagine the 170 of us snaking our way to New York – but our contribution to what will be an unstoppable people’s movement to demand climate action.)
After offering the stack of dry food to Santussika and Santacitta Bhikkhunis, I figure my living space for the next 4 days, pressing and pulling levers for optimum reclining coach seat comfort – mmm not quite a right fit – and disappear into a dreamy slump. Later, we stroll through the car, enjoying a great tribe of colorful and diverse new friends, admiring pizzazz t-shirts and buttons (badges in UK speak.) My favorite statement, Wake the dreamer, Change the Dream. At Reno we stop and pile out to greet a group of activists are on the platform who are there to cheer us on – more banners and shouts of “Obama, Obama, we don’t need climate change trauma.”
More people join the train, I check out creature comforts, connect, chat, stroll, nap, and with Ayyas Santussika and Santacitta, attend the rolling workshops. Sitting together in the observation car; words of diagnosis, dissent and determination swirl around as the train picks up speed and wends its way through communities impacted by fossil fuels, particulalry the heart lands of Nevada, Utah and Colorado, which are in crosshair for Tar Sands Oil. We hear about Tar Sands activism, Community Resistance, Non-violent Communication, Climate Justice, Putting a Price on Carbon, Trans/queer Ally-ship, Climate Chemistry, Money in Politics as Obstacle to Climate Treaty, Indigenous Resistance – about 50 workshops in all are being offered over 4 days on the train.
Everyone on board is straight into climate chaos reality, talking its impact and solutions. It’s too much to capture, but I want to bring your attention to two practical initiatives, which can join. Climate Citizens Lobby focuses on a dividend-revenue neutral fee on carbon-based fuels. This is an organization that has access to the House and Senate. They are currently negotiating with senators and those involved in the political process. CCL proposes a very realizable, win-win carbon neutral policy. The other initiative, just launched is The Climate Mobilization Pledge, putting climate action on the level of World War Two mobilization.
While we roll through the most magnificent landscape of mountains, high desert, pine forests, tracking the great Colorado River, This feels the exactly right place to be. As night falls, I have the feeling expressed so well by Arundhati Roy “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”