California Pagans join interfaith contingent in global climate march

SAN FRANCISCO —  On September 8, 2018, tens of thousands of people took part in at least 900 actions in 95 countries, as part of the Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice marches. They were demanding significant action on climate change, demanding that the world shift from the use of fossil fuels to the use of renewable energy. In the U.S., marches occurred in Boston, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland, and other major cities.

In San Francisco, about 30,000 people marched from Embarcadero Plaza to the Civic Center. The people of faith contingent, which included Pagans, had an estimated 3,000 marchers and formed about 10 percent of the entire march.

Interfaith Contingent [Kamran Nayeri].

These marches occurred in tandem with the Global Climate Action Summit. The marches represented the grass roots, and that summit, the elites. That summit took place in San Francisco, from September 12 to 14, 2018. It focused on strengthening the Paris Climate Accord that was signed by Obama and abrogated by Trump.

Interfaith work

Interfaith leaders in San Francisco emphasized the moral and sacred factors involved in climate change. Felicity Grove of Covenant of the Goddess stressed, “The main objective for the Interfaith Contingent was to send a clear message that climate change is a moral issue.“ The environmental burdens of climate change are falling heaviest on the most vulnerable not those most responsible.

In preparing for the March, the leadership of Interfaith Contingent wanted to know how many would be participating. They asked each faith tradition to estimate how many of its members would march. For many spiritual traditions, it was easy to poll their congregations. Those faith traditions that signed up the most congregations became “winners.” A competitive spirit developed,

Pagans, however, became “losers, ” with only two out of twelve Pagan “congregations” signed up. This provided Grove with what she called a “teachable moment.” She explained to the organizers the need for Pagan privacy. She described the reaction: “You could see on people’s faces the moment they realized that history of their faith traditions has not been kind to Pagans.”

Pre-march interfaith service

Before the March, an interfaith service occurred, which included Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jewish Groups, Muslims, Pagans, and Sikhs, as well as representatives of Indigenous Peoples. Grove noticed that all prior speakers prayed for the Earth and Mother Nature, but no one had yet said “Nature is Sacred.” Grove herself spoke about the sanctity of Nature in-itself.

She also talked about the experiential nature of the Pagan tradition. She then asked if people at this interfaith services would be willing to chant. After they said yes, she led them in chanting. “One breath for the sky, one breath for the sea, one breath for the land, and one breath for me.”

The Pagan presence in the Interfaith Contingent

The Covenant of the Goddess, Fellowship of the Spiral Path, Hrafnar, the Order of Bards and Druids, Reclaiming, and solitaries marched together. Grove praised Reclaiming for their music, “As we marched we sang songs, danced, beat drums, and we even had a guitar. One Christian lady came up to us and said that she wanted to march with us because we were having so much fun.“

The Pagan Contingent [Kamran Nayeri].

The post-march interfaith service

After the March, Grace Cathedral hosted another interfaith service. Representatives of indigenous peoples opened and closed the service. The Dalai Lama spoke via Skype. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) spoke in person. Grove described the service, ”As each faith tradition processed down the main aisle of the Cathedral, they were led, fore and, aft by people walking on stilts covered in green face paint, leaves, and twigs. At the end of the service, leaves rained on the congregants, very Pagan.”