by Marisa Keller | photos by Zac Rudge

We poured down Main Street in Montpelier and up the walk to the statehouse steps. Our numbers had swelled to what we will delightedly call 350. After assembling for a photo, we divided neatly (well, more or less) into three prearranged groups, one for each door. In silence we streamed in through the doors, flooding the first floor with people.

We massed in the lobby, on the Vermont marble floor studded with fossils from ancient seas. We held our silence until everyone had gathered, and then we surged into song.

There are more waters rising this I know, this I know.
There are more waters rising this I know.
There are more waters rising, they will find their way to me
There are more waters rising this I know.

There are more fires burning this I know, this I know
There are more fires burning this I know.
There are more fires burning, they will find their way to me
There are more fires burning this I know.

There are more mountains falling this I know, this I know
There are more mountains falling this I know.
There are more mountains falling, they will find their way to me
There are more mountains falling this I know.

I will wade in the waters this I know, this I know…

I will walk through the fires this I know, this I know…

I will rebuild the mountains this I know, this I know…

 

Our youth all stood in the center of the lobby, many of them holding branches of pussy willow that we had cut along the walk. After the song ended, they each spoke aloud a message attached to their branch — a request to the legislature to preserve something precious, from the future for their children to Vermont winters to the air and water we breathe. As a first step toward preservation, they called on the legislature to pass H.51, S.66, and H.175, to ban new large-scale fossil-fuel infrastructure and prohibit the use of eminent domain to take people’s land for fossil-fuel uses.

After the reading, the adults all filed out singing, and small groups of youth went to the rooms of the House and Senate Energy Committees and left their pussy willow messages. Two youth leaders went to the office of Mitzi Johnson, speaker of the House, and were able to speak to her as well.

This is not just another issue, they told her. We want this to be your priority. At this point, denial and delay are the same thing.

One of our legislators called our action the most powerful protest she had ever witnessed.

Over the course of this walk, about 300 people have walked, some for one day, some all the way. But they are only the visible tip of the iceberg. The folks who planned the logistics, the folks who drove the support vehicles, the folks in communities along the way who spread an incredible feast in front of us everywhere we stopped, the sponsor folks who donated snacks, the folks who sheltered us from the rain, the folks who fed our cats or cared for our children or covered for us at work while we walked, and the news media who are telling our stories — all these people were part of the walk, too.

And we walk as part of the global climate justice movement, and in solidarity with racial justice and economic justice and migrant justice, and all the other movements working to lift up oppressed and marginalized people.

An experience like the walk sparks instant connections and lasting bonds. But if you, who are reading this, didn’t walk, please know that this is not an exclusive club. There is room and welcome for you. We may not be walking the road to Montpelier anymore, but we are still walking the road to climate justice and a better future for all — through sun and wind and rain and hail. We look forward to joining in community with you somewhere along the way. Onward!

 

What follows are reflections from an assortment of walkers, young and old, on their experience of the walk — special moments, general reflections, and hopes.

 

Excerpts from the Walk Journal, Day 5

“In a time of dark politics, we did something bright. When the VT legislature punts with feeble indifference, we showed commitment to a worldview that will not be shaken. We’re together now after a long walk as a pop-up community of Earth protectors. We can and did build up our resolve to deal with the Climate Crisis to the scale of the problem. By embracing an interfaith, intersectional approach to this march, a flower bloomed of support from the churches and wider community. We have arrived at our winning strategy: Win or not, we’re going towards that Great Waterfall or Ecological Utopia in one canoe.”

“The world is changing the climate is changing and so are we. We must take to the streets to walk for … miles, to fully speak our minds so we must fight like we’ve never fought before. Each in our own sepret way, we must draw on that pool of strength we keep inside us. And so, we have walked. We have chosen to speak our minds and raise our voices through our feet. We have walked. Through feilds and valleys we have walked! With tears in our eyes and a song on our lips we have walked. Through laughter and despair, silence and sing alongs we have walked. Because we must. There is no other option. Our actions speak louder than even the loudest voices. So let us make the boldest actions and raise our voices ever louder.”

“Had fun walking for a good cause. Hope it inspires political action from our legislatures!”

“We walked so society could RUN (but not on fossil fuels).”

“Happy to have walked for the Mother of us all.”

“I stubbed my toe on one of the stops, and it was just fun and I forgot about my toe.”

“The honor of meeting and walking with this amazing group will stay with me as well as the memory of places we were in, people who supported us with rest stops and band music (wow). Remember Bill McKibben’s words at opening ceremony: Stay a little annoyed! We don’t want to do this again in 13 years (for the same problems. Maybe new ones by then).”

“I felt that the statehouse action was very moving. … I was moved to tears.”

“There were so many amazing things on this march. I felt so strongly the woman who was making her camp in the woods. I wish her solace. I know the little bit of food and money will not make much difference, but at least she knows we care. I believe we need to do little walks like this one throughout the state and reach out to folks providing educational material on climate and talking face to face.”

“[Shuttle driver and walker:] Driving in I see fog over the ice on Mallets Bay. New friends — so many wonderful people! One of our youngest walkers was about 9 years old — he seemed to get tired when the Tesla 3 was available to pick him up! Shuttling a mom and her son (~9) back to Middlebury — lovely people — singing along to ABBA (the son’s favorite). Unbelievable potlucks! Comraderie on the road and in the scenery. …”

“As Beverly Little Thunder said in our closing ceremony, ‘We have been a part of the problem. If we want to stop being part of the problem, we have to be part of the solution.’ Also, gosh it’s going to feel strange getting into a car!”