By Quito Ziegler, who along with Bizzy Barefoot led 100 artists in the Queer Planet art build for the People’s Climate March. They are both involved with ongoing efforts by Queers for the Planet, “a new group dedicated to putting queer ingenuity, creativity and passion for justice to address the crisis of human-caused global climate change.”
Here are five things I’m still thinking about, five days after the People’s Climate March:
1. AIR IT OUT
One of the things I keep coming back to, as I spend more time off the grid in places like Vermont, is the concept of TIME. The pace of the city vs. the pace of the earth. The time it takes to grab a dollar slice of pizza vs. making dough, letting it rise, and baking it yourself. The time it takes to actually heal from traumatic experiences vs. the expectations of demanding schedules. How quickly technology allows us to communicate with each other. The speed of travel from one place to another.
Humans have sped up, but has the planet? It seems the gulf between the pace of our lives and what it takes to sustain that level of consumption vs. the natural speed of the earth and her regeneration are rapidly widening. Alternatives are out there – but things just can’t continue the way that they are.
American habits might feel inevitable and unchangeable – how much oil we burn running errands, how much grain-fed meat we eat, the length of our showers – but the way we live now is not how it’s always been. And the people who feel the effects of our collective behaviors might not be us, but our grandchildren. Literally. Not metaphoric “grandchildren” but the babies of the babies being born in 2014. People in frontline communities are already feeling it NOW.
We have to remember that our snappy lives are just a blip in a larger continuum of time. The industrial revolution happened in the last 250 years and our increased reliance on fossil fuels – and the devastation its mass usage is wreaking – in the last 100 years. There are island nations that might cease to exist in our lifetimes; Miami might be under water by 2060. In the history of the earth and the continuum of her future, this very moment we are in is a pivotal one.
2. FIRE IN OUR BELLIES
How does collective work on climate issues fit with more urgent work addressing systemic inequities now?
How do we think collectively, intersectionally and movement-wide about organizing to dismantle prisons and transphobia and economic injustice and borders and homelessness, alongside longer-term work to dismantle capitalism and misogyny and the patriarchy and deal with their impact on climate change? (there is a LOT to do!!)
Can it all happen simultaneously? How does self-interest play into this? How do we support each other long-term and work together as a coordinated movement?
I am one person with fire in my belly. What can I do?
I am sitting with these questions – there are no easy answers. But it *was* interesting to set aside two weeks of my activist life to focus directly on the earth. Usually I balance my community/cultural organizing with emergency work with transient queer young people, with thinking broadly about movement-building on the Third Wave Fund board, with imagining pop cultural change through the movie I’m directing. Stepping back from all of this to work on an issue that underscores ALL of these other things was a paradigm shift for me, and I’m still working out how it all fits together.
3. ALL OF THE FEELINGS
So many feelings. The destruction of the earth is a terrifying, sad event. We are part of the problem. I am part of the problem. The loss of entire species and countries is devastating. We are partially responsible. I am partially responsible. I am held down by fuck-up systems that are held firmly in place in this society, though I do have the ability to resist those things. Yet sometimes it’s easier to go with the status quo. I am angry at the ways I am not in control of my own consumption. I am inspired by the sheer force and power I experienced at the march.
So many feelings. So many more. All of them true.
4. FEED EACH OTHER
Every Thursday night at Sylvia’s Place, the emergency queer youth shelter established as the legendary Sylvia Rivera’s dying wish at the Metropolitan Community Church in Manhattan, a group of volunteers, staff and former clients make dinner and eat together at the shelter with the current residents there. Cooking skills and recipes are shared across generations and cultures, young people and former clients and queers of all stripes have space to be together, and we all eat REALLY well. It’s kind of a beautiful phenomenon on a lot of different levels.
Earlier this year, when we were just getting this program rolling, I drew a meditation that said FEED EACH OTHER and taped it up on the fridge there. Maybe six months later, a bit tattered, it is still there. I meditate on it still. When it came time to make the banner for Earth during the Queer Planet build, it was an intuitive choice for a defining slogan.
In the 1970’s there was book published called Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé that unraveled the concept of hunger and scarcity, and how much grain we were feeding to livestock and how that related to the burning of fossil fuel, among other things. Last week Penny gave me a book called Hope’s Edge, written by the same author with her daughter 25 years later, that re-examined these questions and highlighted working solutions. In it she makes a case for how food, and how we feed ourselves and each other, as the central issue of how our world fits together :
“If we look at food, really look, our world can shift. We might just not only grasp for the first time the biggest ideas limiting our lives, but also discover for the first time whole new ways of seeing the world that release us from our march toward planetary destruction.”
There’s a lot more to it than that, but – I am pondering this still. And how food, one of the most basic human needs, relates to issues of climate justice and how through food, we might carry this need to DO SOMETHING into our daily, personal lives.
5. WE’RE HERE, WE’RE QUEER, WE’RE HERE TO SAVE THE PLANET
This video. Just this. Taken out of context, it’s kind of a hubristic statement. How weird that in the moment of shouting it on the streets last weekend, it actually felt humble.
Something about queer power, something about dreaming big, something about wising up. Something about purpose. Right now it’s still just the chant, replacing T-Swift as the music in the back of my head. I’m letting it guide my steps this week.
* * *
So those are the five things still rattling around. I’m sure I’ll have more to say soon, as we think through the WHAT COMES NEXT part. Curious to hear what YOU are left with… interesting times we are living through, no?
Quito Ziegler is an artist who creates magical experiences. They like to play with gender, glitter, string, community organizing, crocheted blankets, and their old Nikon camera. Lately they are particularly fond of collective movie-making experiences, eco-transfeminism, down-to-earth mysticism, and cooking family dinners at Sylvia’s Place, a queer youth shelter in NYC. Learn more at www.quitoziegler.com.