By Katie Antos-Ketcham, a member of 350VT’s Writing for Climate Justice group
When I heard about the Climate Walk being coordinated by 350Vermont, I knew that this is the year that we’ll be getting out our hiking shoes a bit early, hitting the pavement instead of the trail.
Some of my favorite days are spent hiking. The sound of my footsteps, breathing, and heartbeats combine with the quiet sounds of the forest in a way that calms my mind, even though I spend more than half the time encouraging my kids. My favorite hike is a quick mile-and-a-half climb up a side trail to a shelter on Vermont’s Long Trail. Our twins made their first solo hike there at age 3. Since then, every time they’ve taken that hike I’ve taken a ceremonial picture of them using their fingers to show their age, but now that they’ve just turned 11 I’m not sure what I’ll do.
Everyone with kids tells you how quickly they grow up, which, I now understand, is true. In no time, they’ll be 23, the age the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says they’ll be when we’ve passed the climate tipping point. We have less than 12 years, they say, to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. And as the past 11 years have shown me, that’s not a lot of time.
I’m not an unusual person for wanting my kids to have a bright future, but instead of thinking about college or career, I spend a lot more time thinking about what their lives will be like with even more of an unpredictable climate. And today’s youth are worrying about their future too. Greta Thunberg is just one of these young people; she’s the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who was just nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. What stuck with me most about the speech she gave at Davos was this: “I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
I’m already following a path quite different from mainstream society, living in a way that attempts to do my part to avert and prepare for climate catastrophe. But some days it feels so hopeless, like I’m emptying just one of our water bottles onto a forest fire fueled by tinder. And sometimes I feel so alone, like I’m one of the only ones in the fire line.
But I know that’s not true. I know there are many people out there who do care and who are creating meaningful change. And those are the people I want to be with. I want to stand with them. I want to walk with them.
And so we will. My family will be joining others for at least one day of the 65-mile Next Steps walk and most definitely for the Climate Grieving and Healing Ceremony in Hinesburg’s Geprags Park. And just like I do for our days on the trail, I’ll be sure to pack some of our favorite trail snacks, fill our water bottles, and, yes, I’ll probably take a couple of pictures if my kids will let me.
Maybe we won’t change anything other than ourselves, but that, I realize, is probably the change that’s most important. I need to feel that I’m not alone. That we’re not alone. I need this solidarity and strength to keep fighting the fire.
In the same speech at Davos, Thunberg said, “We all have a choice. We can create transformational action that will safeguard the living conditions for future generations. Or we can continue with our business as usual and fail. That is up to you and me.” As a mother, my choice is to walk. Please, won’t you join me?