An indigenous man from a tribe I could not name walked over to me during the pan-indigenous spiritual ceremony that took place in Central Park at sunrise this morning. In his hand, he held burning sage. He waved it around my body to cleanse my aura, as well as of all of those around me. His elders were singing a song in a beautiful language that I could not decipher, sharing their joy, their pain and their love. I felt ashamed that I could not name this man's tribe, yet he was still blessing me, smiling and accepting of me in his circle. It was a beautiful ceremony, filled with blessings, goodwill, hope and love. Ushering positive vibrations as the morning broke.
I was so honored and humbled to pay witness to a sunrise ceremony that brought together many indigenous elders (and their families) from all over the world - from Hawaii, Arizona, Ecuador, Peru and Nova Scotia - to cleanse, pray and sing songs for the opening of today's well-publicized People's Climate March. I was also ashamed by my lack of education about the names of America's Indigenous Peoples.
As we got ready for the march, I noticed the enthusiasm from the growing number of people, cameras, and news crews from all over the world gathering.
I was very impressed with today's turnout. More than 310,000 people from all over the world showed their support for the environment, as well as many other causes - from Occupy Wall Street to protesting rising taxes. There were even some celebrities - I was surprised to see myself walking right next to Leonardo Dicaprio. I even saw Mark Ruffalo, Al Gore, Bill De Blasio, Ban Ki-Moon and Jane Goodall in the crowd.
As the crowd made their way down Central Park West, a little girl ran up to me and took my hand. Little Nikita had woken up at 3am to come down from New Jersey by train to join the march with her mother. She kept hugging me whenever we came to a stop. I really didn't mind all this extra love from my newfound friend.
Hundreds of people traveled from far and wide to show their support at this march. I met a beautiful woman named Shelley who travelled all the way to New York just for the day from Nova Scotia to march in her traditional costume. She invited me to come visit her if I ever found myself in Nova Scotia.
Yet as we marched, I felt my ignorance gnawing at my conscience. And I couldn't help thinking about what would happen after today - after this march. Would everything just go back to being normal? Because I knew, I couldn't.
I was changed internally by the sunrise ceremony I experienced this morning. The pre-march prayers and blessings - even if they were in several languages I couldn't even understand - really touched something inside of me. I couldn't help wondering: Would these prayers, along with this march really affect any decisions made at the UN General Assembly?
I really hope so... because the truth is, without any real, solid action that affects our everyday lives - a climate march, even one as big as this one, would be nothing but a parade - filled with costumes, signage, glitterati and celebrities.
What we really need to do is respect the land, air, water and other cultures in our daily lives, 365 days a year. We need to practice what we preach consistently, daily - not just shout out from rooftops once a year. We need to take responsibility and realize how our everyday decisions contribute to our own personal carbon footprint and how this effects climate change.
Because climate change effects EVERYONE - regardless of race, class, culture or creed.
And we need to realize that even as everyday people, we have a lot of power - a lot of purchasing power, a lot of decision-making power, a lot of educational power, a lot of people-power and we need to harness it.
I am writing this to myself as I write it to you:
I urge you to demand (and practice) our rights to a cleaner, greener, more educated and more responsible planet every single day... even on a smaller scale. Even if it just means not taking a plastic or paper bag when you don't need it or bringing a reusable water bottle to work. Or turning off that air-conditioning when you don't need it. These little things can add up to a lot.
There are so many things that you can do to be proactive about climate change. Let's come together and not allow our planet wither away due to negligence. It's the only one we've got.