Just before attending the the rally in Oakland yesterday, I had lunch at a Chinese restaurant. My fortune was: "THINGS ARE TURNING FOR THE BRIGHT SIDE".
And that was my feeling throughout the afternoon. To begin with, waiting at the bus stop was a young woman, who asked if I was going to the rally. She was campaigning for a candidate for the East Bay Municipal Water District Board, and we chatted about the California drought, how attitudes and policies have to move further toward conservation, about Stephen Schwartz's prediction that California will have to depopulate as the state runs out of water. From there we moved to the ocean rising, and wondered whether Alameda, a low island in the Bay, would be flooded, and how much of the East Bay would be covered with water.
Grim subjects, yet it was uplifting to talk to a 22 year old woman with such high consciousness about the state of the planet. We continued to chat during the bus ride.
Like myself, her parents came of age in the 60's. They raised her to be socially conscious, and she is doing what she feels to be necessary for the times.
As we walked a few blocks to Lake Merritt, she asked if I thought her generation is capable of meeting the challenges of the times. I said "Well, yes. You're people, and we humans are capable of amazing things."
She replied, "I look around me and see lots of apathy. My peers feel it's too much to deal with and they feel helpless, so they block out the big picture and wear blinders, just focus on their own lives"
My answer was the hope that this rally, and the hundreds of others around the world, would enable everyone to face reality and start taking care of the many problems. One of my favorite sayings is from Joe Hill: "Don't agonize, organize." She liked that.
The rally was well attended. Many people had brought signs. My favorite was a huge picture of a beautiful woman, crying as she curled herself around the planet. "Love your mother", it said. Some signs focused on fracking, some on changing the system. Several pointed out "There is no planet B". I went to the children's corner, where there was some sign- making material, and made one saying "It's cleanup time".
It was a beautiful day at the newly renovated outdoor amphitheater at the south end of Lake Merritt. Around 1000 people (my estimate) milled around, or sat on the grass and listened to the speakers. The mood was quiet, attentive, serious, hopeful.
I ran into several friends- Cynthia Papermaster at the Code Pink table, Holly Harp from our Fukushima Response Bay Area group, John Bertucci from the Northern California Fukushima response group, who had come from Petaluma. He told me his group is monitoring the ocean and fish catch for radiation; so far, so good- no sign of Cesium 134, the signature isotope from the leaking Japanese site.
The stage mike was powered by volunteer cyclists, as is now common at this sort of event. The speakers ranged from a Sierra Club lecturer to a high school hip hop dance group. A local Native American activist sang a song. A spokesman for an Asian ecologist group spoke in Chinese with an interpreter. A Socialist Worker spoke about the need for changing the economic system to deal with climate change.
The audience ranged in age from nursing infants to ancient veterans like myself- lots of people in the 20-40 age range. It was disappointing that few people of color turned out in this very diverse city; evidently publicity wasn't very good in the black and brown communities. The good news is that the organizing committee, a consortium of local environmental groups, plans to continue holding rallies like this frequently. This is a movement that needs to build rapidly.
As I waited for the bus to go home, I chatted with a middle-aged woman from Berkeley, who teaches preschool and works in a community garden. She believes in building community any way possible, and stressed that we have to love ourselves in order to love our planet. She feels that we are ashamed of the mess we've made, and have to forgive ourselves in order to move on.
I do believe that "things are turning for the bright side".