A Climate Rally for My 80th Birthday

We are witnessing a huge global rallying cry to act swiftly and powerfully to arrest the climate crisis, which is set to destroy both us humans and many other species, and to lay waste to our whole ecology. Our own community is beginning to wake up and take action through building coalitions and planning local actions to stem this tide. At the same time we are getting to know each other as neighbours and friends and fellow activists for our community’s health and that of Mother Earth.

Somewhere in the last month or two Dorothy asked me how I wanted to celebrate my 80th, and I had this immediate—some might say crazy—idea that we could have an outdoor mid-winter party that could double as a climate rally – “No Plan(et) B”. Well of course Dorothy took off running with the idea.

But at once all kinds of questions arose. What kind of weather could we expect in Nova Scotia in late February? What would be the latest rules about public gatherings? Could we really get people to show up? Could guitars or other musical instruments “perform” in the inevitable cold? What about a sound system? Hot drinks for freezing fingers? But nothing ever daunts Dorothy after her decades of experience as operations manager of StFX residences, conferences, food, and cleaning services. In the end it all went off beautifully—though I was kept in the dark until the actual day about almost the whole program that Dorothy put together.

On Friday, February 25 at 12 noon at least 50 people braved the -9 Celsius weather, and we were blessed with an almost windless and snowless day in Chisholm Park. Len P.D. MacDonald proved to be a marvellous choice for master of ceremonies. He led off with the Indigenous land acknowledgement—that we are living on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq, and that the Peace and Friendship treaties signed between the British Crown and the Mi’kmaq (unlike many other historic treaties in Canada) did not involve surrender of land. Then I added my own tribute and thanks for the privilege of living in Mi’kmaki. I announced that all HARP books could be bought at 20% off during the next ten days, with 20% of sales going equally to the Circle of Abundance Indigenous Program at Coady Institute (https://coady.stfx.ca/circle-of-abundance); and the David Suzuki Foundation (one nature); https://davidsuzuki.org.

Paula Paul wished me “Happy Birthday” and Elder John R. Prosper sang How Great Thou Art, both in Mi’kmaq, which was very moving.

Four members of the St. James United Church Men’s Choir—Peter Rawding, Al Lowe, Charles Lowe and Scott Williams—followed up by singing the same beautiful hymn in English. Len PD joined the four choir members in singing The Skye Boat Song, my favourite ballad that my mum used to sing and play on the piano when I was a little boy in Devon.

Andrew Murray, Justin Gregg and Laura Teasdale then reprised the SDH (Social Distance Hug)—now famous in Antigonish town and county and they quickly got down and goofy!

Now it was time for Angela Bowles and her crew from Fresh Food Matters to bless us with hot cider and cake and ice cream. What a gorgeous creation!

After the formal cake-cutting ceremony, Len gave me, as a longtime Floridian, a much-needed lesson in snow scooping, for which I scored a pretty low grade. Amelia Tan, aged 3, came up on the podium and wished me Happy Birthday in Cantonese. Her nine-year-old brother Ethan was in school but he had designed a wonderful climate awareness poster, which Mom Cathy Lin and Amelia presented to me along with Ethan’s explanation of everything on the poster.

            

My seven-year-old friend Julia Desmond presented me with her own poster, which prompted Len PD to acknowledge that it was still African-Canadian Heritage month. Several others came forward and wished me Happy Birthday in other languages including German, Iranian, and Sign language.

The many other placards that the Fridays for Future group have created were also put on display for passers-by to be inspired by. Then L’Arche Creative Dance Group, Hearts & Hands, performed their Dance of Resilience, which got a lot of us warming up by dancing.

Gord Cunningham, Executive Director of the Coady Institute, gave a moving tribute on behalf of the Coady. I presented ten mounted David Suzuki climate awareness posters following a draw. Here are three lucky winners—Wyanne Sandler, Suzie Murphy, and Noella Murphy:

Finally, Chris Griffiths closed the show by strumming his guitar and singing Eliza Gilkyson’s Calm Before the Storm.

Hopeful messages about our climate emergency was the only instruction we gave to presenters. This verse from Calm Before the Storm is just that:

Even when the winds are sailing
And you are lost out on uncharted seas
The compass of your heart won’t fail you now,
Because it was made for times like these

When we pause to consider the global crisis that threatens us, it is hard to imagine what we as a small community can possibly do to avert it. But “think global, act local,” as they say—because it’s the only possible way forward. We all have a lot of grief and fear and anger to shed at the devastation that corporate capitalism has wrought on our beloved Mother Earth. But there is every reason for hope and faith in human love and intelligence and ingenuity. If we got ourselves into this mess, there is no reason at all that we cannot dig ourselves out. So that we as a human species will not just survive but thrive—along with the myriad other species that inhabit the earth alongside us.

One Reply to “A Climate Rally for My 80th Birthday”

  1. Cathy DeWitt

    This looks like such a wonderful event! I wish we could have been there to help celebrate you, John! And Dorothy, thanks for sharing these photos and the bits that happened as the day unfolded. What a lovely birthday party you created.
    Have a happy Earth Day too!

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