Susan Varlamoff marching at the People's Climate MarchI felt a scientific and moral imperative to participate in the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. April 29.

As an environmental scientist, I understand the link between climate change and human behavior and as a Catholic, I feel a deep responsibility to safeguard our natural resources for succeeding generations. As a mother of three sons and two grandchildren, I want to leave the Mother Earth in good standing to nourish their bodies and souls. And I know time is not on our side.

 

As a result, I joined the more than 200,000 like-minded individuals who marched down Pennsylvania Ave to capture the world’s attention on the need to act on climate change now. From the Franciscans in their brown robes to the Muslim women covered in pastel-colored veils, to the Buddhists wearing saffron robes to the Jews donning skull caps, all major faith groups were represented. All ages participated too, from toddlers in strollers to the elderly pushing walkers. Bands played rousing songs, the Hindus chanted and we all sang God Bless American. Joy abounded as we felt a higher purpose marching together for the common good.

My sign was the graphic design of the Action Plan for Pope’s environmental encyclical Laudato Si that I wrote with my University of Georgia colleagues who represent various disciplines and faiths. I opted to promote climate change solutions rather than protest government policies. This bilingual Action Plan provides houses of worship and their faithful a range of actions they can take to care for the earth and one another. From turning down the thermostat and swapping out conventional lights bulbs for LEDS, to reducing food waste and setting up a food bank, to landscaping the church with native plants, there are simple and more complex actions every church, temple, synagogue, and mosque and their people can do. In my pocket, I carried business cards with a copy of my sign, the Action Plan web address and my contact information.

Catholic contingent in the Faith section at the People's Climate MarchSince we had to wait hours with our respective contingents for the march to begin, I networked at a ferocious pace with my fellow Catholics. There were leaders from many national and international Catholic organizations such as the Catholic Climate Covenant and the Global Catholic Climate, representatives of Interfaith Power and Light, and people from parishes throughout country. I distributed my Action Plan business cards liberally among the crowd.

As we happily marched along, I was reminded of the words of a Hopi Indian elder who said, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”