By John Cartmill September 24, 2013
On March 1, 2014, 1,000 climate patriots will set out from Los Angeles, CA, the largest coast-to-coast march in American history, to inspire action to resolve the climate crisis. Last week, at a screening of the movie “Bidder 70”, I had an opportunity to meet one of the marchers, Jerry Stewart. A local teacher and activist with 350 Loudoun, Jerry was born in Fairfax, and spent his elementary years in Herndon, then moved to Loudoun County. He went to Kenyon College in Ohio where he studied Religious Studies and Chinese. After graduating in 2009, he lived in Guangzhou, China for two years teaching English, before returning to get his Master’s degree in Education at George Mason University and become an ESL teacher.
The 3,000 mile march will finish in Washington D.C. Along the way the march will showcase lots of sustainable technologies and practices. The marchers will be sleeping in tents and buying locally grown organic products. Their gear will be transported by bike trailer and with vehicles using little or no fossil fuel. The cost for each marcher is $5000. You can help Jerry here: http://www.crowdrise.com/jerrystewart. And if you read the interview below I’m sure you will realize what a great investment it will be.
FCW: What inspired you to take part in this March? Please include a little personal background.
Jerry: Beyond the injustice and suffering life on the planet faces as a result of climate change, there are a few things that have catalyzed my participation in the Great March for Climate Action.
It was when my baby nephew was born in July, for example, that I realized how unacceptable my previous inaction was. Knowing the way I live my life affects the nature of the world my nephew will grow up in, I can no longer turn a blind eye to my complacency in a fossil fuel-based society. Carbon pollution and climate change will hurt the health and happiness of my nephew and his future loved ones and family. I'm not willing to look at my nephew and accept a lifestyle I know ultimately hurts him and the experiences he and his peers will have growing up. Marching across the country will help me confront my own dependence on fossil fuels and allow me to generate the energy, vision, and inspiration to search for ways to reject that dependence.
My choice to participate in this March also stems from another, smaller walk I had the opportunity to participate in. This was the Walk for Our Grandchildren, a 100 mile journey from Camp David to the White House to generate the moral courage and determination elected officials need in order to protect future generations from everything negative surrounding the burning of fossil fuels. Spending a week walking with people who are deeply engaged with this crisis and are really the leaders of this climate-based movement, layers of dread, darkness, and isolation that have built up around my heart melted as I discovered that community and action provide a powerful well of hope and happiness. I learned about hope from the folks on the Walk for Our Grandchildren, and I join the March in order to help spread personal hope to a more national sphere.
I will be marching with all of this on my mind. I will hold my family, friends, and supporters close to my heart along the way.
FCW: What actions would you like to see individuals, communities, corporations, and government take to combat climate change?
Jerry: I see the climate crisis primarily as a matter of the heart. For an individual to combat climate change, I think the most powerful thing that can be done is introspection. Perhaps I am naive to think this, but if each of us makes the effort to recognize our own humanity, our connections to one another and the living world around us, and the general interconnectedness of things, I'm convinced we will no longer accept the dirty system we live with. Once individuals begin rejecting consumerism and other staples of what some think of as the American Dream, including the need to buy a personal car and house, healthy communities will replace corporate profit and a senseless obsession with competition and economic growth. Corporate power and greed and a government that supports it will become obsolete if people stop buying into them and instead turn towards a more robust, sustainable, and highly localized economy. The government can help move us away from fossil fuels by incentivizing renewables and taxing carbon, but I don't think that will happen without a general change of heart among the people. Exactly how such a transition will look, I, of course, do not know. The March is an opportunity for our society as a whole to work on this question.
FCW: What can people do in addition to giving money help support the March?
Jerry: For anyone who is able to manage it, I would invite them to join the March, even if only for a small portion. The more people who can participate in this, the more powerful it will be. The March website is www.climatemarch.org.
If you can't participate, perhaps consider starting a local solidarity action, such as a series of day hikes, which will help build general momentum around climate action in your own community.
Another great way to help support the March is by simply spreading the word. Share the March on Facebook. Tell friends and family about it. Contact your favorite media sources and ask if they are covering it.
Everything helps, big or small, and is greatly appreciated.
FCW: What are you plans after the March (if you've thought that far ahead)?
Jerry: My dream since middle school has been to become a teacher. I've put those dreams on hold in my life several times as I've followed various interests. I am putting my Masters program on hold once again to join the March, and may or may not continue it when I return. I have always wanted to become a teacher so that I could help open students' eyes to the world and give them tools to pursuit their own happiness. In the face of climate change and the nature of most schools today, I wonder if becoming a teacher in the traditional sense is the right direction for me. After the March, I hope to find a way to combine education, activism, and sustainability. What exactly that might look like is still unknown to me, but I'm okay with that.