Pagans march for the planet

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TWH –Last Saturday, Apr. 29, a second People’s Climate March was held in Washington, D.C., with related rallies and other events occurring around the world. The protest — a follow-up to the 2014 march in New York City — was announced in January, coinciding with both Earth Day weekend and President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office.

The president has begun to roll back regulations that were put into place to slow climate change, which he has called a Chinese hoax. According to organizer estimates, 300,000 joined in nationwide, with 150,000 on the National Mall alone. Other estimates peg the Washington attendance as high as 250,000.

Indiana protesters in Washington [courtesy photo].

As was the case in 2014, earth-centered Pagans made their presence known, and some of them shared reflections of the experience.

John Halstead helped organize a bus of participants that came to Washington from Indiana, and together with members of 350 Indiana-Calumnet, helped get people there who have been victims of environmental damage.

“Though fundraising we were able to sponsor several residents of the West Calumet Housing complex in East Chicago, Indiana,” Halstead explained.

“The West Calumet residents are facing a Flint-like lead poisoning crisis and have been evicted from their homes due to contamination of their soil and water.”

Halstead found the event to be incredibly focused. “Walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, with the Capitol Building at our backs, was invigorating, in spite of the heat (over 90 degrees) and physical exertion. Everywhere I looked, people seemed to be exuberant.”

While he didn’t make contact, Halstead spied the EarthSpirit Community contingent from a distance. According to that group’s spokesperson Donovan Arthen, by committing early and publicly to attending, they were able to provide a Pagan focal point for those who wished to join them. In addition to a highly-visible EarthSpirit banner, members brought drums and led chants from the spot among the interfaith groups.

Signs by EarthSpirit [Photo Credit: Moira Ashleigh].

One thing that struck Arthen was the fact that, without making a request, there was a “Pagan” spot reserved in that interfaith contingent, which he feels is a testament to the work done by his community and other Pagans among the greater religious communities. The EarthSpirit group was relatively small — about a dozen, compared to the Massachusetts Unitarian Universalists, who fielded two busloads — but he believes their energy was unmistakable.

Arthen believes that activism is a critical part of Paganism, because it is a recognition of the interconnected nature of all life. While he gives similar weight to sacred acts, such as gardening and cleaning up polluted rivers, “Activism is one of the ways I think Pagans can contribute most to the human side of nature. It’s an opportunity to create community, which is core to many Pagan beliefs.”

EarthSpirit members also attended a rally in Greenfield, Mass., one of the many other events which took place across the world.

Across the country in San Jose, California, Rowan Fairgrove reported on another one of those local events. She said there were about 1,000 people in attendance. While she was the only Pagan she knew of at that event, she found solidarity among Green party members, as well as the Raging Grannies activist group.

As to the impact of such events, all three of those interviewed agree that it’s about sending a message: there are more people who support regulation to rein in climate change than lawmakers necessarily believe. It also helps activists recognize that they are not working in a vacuum, even when they later are working alone.

“We who care for our planet, our environment, our neighbors, our children and the future of all living things, need to stand together,” said Fairgrove.

Arthen agreed. “When I choose to take a step, I know that there are 250,000 people at my back.”

“These marches create a new normal, and help shift the conversation,” said Halstead.

For those seeking to change that conversation permanently, that motivation is likely needed; by all accounts, that work is far from over.