Mnookin: Next Steps

Apr 23, 2019

Walkers came from around the state and stretched across age brackets: families with strollers, young children on bikes, teens, college students, partners, baby boomers, and an eighty-five-year-old from Windham County. I was one of them, joining both to speak out against business as usual and to grow a community with shared visions of sustaining life on this planet.

It was “Next Steps,” 350Vermont’s five-day, sixty-five mile walk for climate justice, with themes of reunion, resistance, reimagine, recreate, and reform. The walk centered the climate emergency, while connecting with solidarity struggles like migrant justice.

On the final day, a small group participated in civil disobedience by hanging two banners over an I-89 bridge stating “Caution: Climate Crisis Ahead,” and “Our house is on fire,” citing Greta Thunberg’s famous speech. These attention-gathering and artistic messages inspired me to flex my risk-taking muscles and do my first “banner drop” knowing that actions must increasingly reflect the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.

Later, more than 300 filed into the Statehouse with fists raised in silence before singing “More waters rising,” a song of mourning and resilience. Youth tied messages for legislators to pussy willow branches voicing concern for their futures and calling for clean air and water, land preservation, and a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure. Then they read them aloud. Some shed tears.

The main goal of the walk was to persuade legislators to take action on climate before the end of this session. But success can also be measured in other ways. We tested our resolve, walking until our feet were sore and blistered through wind and hail. We connected with one another over shared meals in school cafeterias, and during conversations that stretched for miles. We slept side by side on church floors; we took the time to create ceremonial spaces where we shared prayers, grieved and dared to hope for healing.

Now back home, what remains for me is the feeling of strong, interconnected community, filled with persistence and committed to justice that each of us is now resolved to carry forward.