San Luis Obispo 2019 Women’s March

Speak your own truth to power.

You might not think that the Women’s March has anything to do with the environment or climate change, but I think it does and this is why.

The beautiful but ailing sphere that we call Earth is home to billions of people and billions of other livings things. On Earth, the environment is continuous and does not recognize county lines, state boundaries, or international borders. We are all connected, our fates intertwined.

In nature, diversity is a strength. The healthiest ecosystems are the ones with the most biodiversity. We humans need to use our own diversity to help heal our Earth.

On Saturday, January 19, 2019, the Women’s March leaders in San Luis Obispo, CA demonstrated that they get this by advocating equality, respect, and love for people of every gender, hue, belief, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ability, and age—meaning everyone.

This post contains a few highlights of my experience as an environmentalist at the Women’s March.

Reusable Protest, March, Rally Sign

The day before the Women’s March, I realized I needed to make a sign.

I discovered the power of carrying a sign during the March for Real Leadership in Oakland, CA on February 7, 2015 (my first march). That day, fortunately, generous artists had made signs for people like me who did not bring one. I still have it.

Since then, I usually make my own signs. Thanks to my handy spouse, our signs are environmentally friendly because they are reusable. The base sign is black corrugated plastic with a removable pole. We use water-soluble paints and rubber cement that peels off. Then after a quick wipe with a wet towel a sign that used to say, “I Heart Science” (for the March for Science) is ready to become a different sign.

With only one day to make a sign, it was a good thing that I already knew what I wanted on mine.

If I was artistic, I would have drawn and painted a likeness of the Statue of Liberty on my sign, but I am not, so I found an image on the Internet, printed it, and attached it with rubber cement. Luckily, we had white and orange paint on hand. I sketched out the letters in pencil but things quickly got out of control when I had a paintbrush in my hand. I painted this year’s theme “Truth to Power” on the back.

At the March, I attached a couple of stickers to my sign that I obtained in Call to Action Alley.

Call to Action Alley

When my spouse and I arrived at Mitchell Park carrying our signs, we discovered that we were at the entrance of Call to Action Alley where booths for a variety of nonprofit organizations had been set up along the walkway.

Call to Action Alley beckoned but I paused eying it with trepidation.

I am one of those shy introverted people who are often uncomfortable talking with people I do not know. On the other hand, I like talking with people to learn and gain other perspectives. I even joy debate, as long as it is friendly. I know weird, right.

My spouse patiently reminded me that the people staffing these booths were there because they wanted to engage with the public and they were probably used to dealing with all sorts of people.

Plucking up a bit of courage, I stuffed my comfort zone into my pocket and we headed into the fray. Unsurprisingly, regardless of how inarticulate I was, the people I spoke with were nice and seemed genuinely interested in talking with me about their organizations. I came away feeling more informed about several groups.

The photos below are of a few of the volunteers I spoke with along Call to Action Alley. I asked them if I could take their pictures but I forgot to ask their names, sigh.

I admit that it was a relief to find some familiar faces near the end of the Alley at the SLO Climate Coalition booth. The Coalition is a community group committed to creating a carbon-free San Luis Obispo city and county. I am new to the group, but I have met several of the members. The photo below is of the contingent of volunteers at the booth before the hordes arrived after the march through downtown San Luis Obispo.

SLO Climate Coalition Booth - Women's March San Luis Obispo, CA - January 19, 2019
Sarah Flickinger, Donna Durek, Mike Horgan, June Cochran, and Elyssa Edwards (left to right) volunteering at the SLO Climate Coalition booth at the Women’s March in San Luis Obispo, CA on January 19, 2019.

Women’s March

After talking with people in Call to Action Alley, I was happy to stand on the lawn with my sign and listen to several speakers, a poet, and two musicians.

Near the beginning of the speeches, the police chief stood at the microphone smiling and told the crowd she was happy to see us and that the police were there to support us. She did not even lecture us about safety or being on good behavior.

The speakers were diverse, powerful, and thankfully brief (crowds have a short attention span). In between speakers, we were entertained with a poem featuring the word “bucko” and the songs I Won’t Back Down and Fight Song.

Adequately riled up and ready to hit the streets our crowd of about 4,500 people headed off to march (stroll) through downtown San Luis Obispo.

Music and the scent of food cooking greeted us as we arrived back at the park.

Speaking Truth to Power 101

Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan’s speech resonated with me. She used part of her time to do what she said she does best which is to teach. Leola inspired us with a crash course in Speaking Truth to Power 101 in five steps. This is my interpretation of what Leola said.

Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan - Women's March in San Luis Obispo, CA - January 19, 2019
Dr. Leola Dublin Macmillan speaking at Women’s March in San Luis Obispo, CA on January 19, 2019. Photo credit David Middlecamp at The Tribune (click photo for link to article).
  1. Find Your Passion – everyone has something she or he cares about and if you are not angry about something that is going on in the world right now you are probably not paying attention.
  2. Find Your People – as you pursue your passion, these people work alongside you, support you, laugh with you, cry with you, and protect you.
  3. Find Your Platform – amplify your voice, stand strong, stand proud, be loud, and stand for others.
  4. Find Your Power – find the warrior inside of you, roar your truth, understand the ramifications of speaking out and do it anyways.
  5. Find Your Place – this is your happy place, safe place, and healing place where you renew your spirit.

It has been almost eight years since I quit my corporate job to found Green Groundswell with the mission to convince myself and other unlikely environmentalists to live more lightly on Earth.

Since that time, I have been searching for and finding my people. My people include my family and friends who continue to love and support me even when I am ranting and raving that my hair is on fire about one environmental issue or another and I do not understand why everyone else’s hair is not on fire.

Find your people and speak your truth to power.

Featured Image at Top: This is the front my 2019 Women’s March sign with the stickers I added at the March. It says “Truth to Power” on the back.

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Thanksgiving – Kindness and Happiness

Brighten someone’s day.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been thinking about how each one of us has the capacity within ourselves to spread kindness and happiness in our own way.

Not long ago, I wrote a post entitled Voting is an Environmental Act hoping to help readers connect how voting or not voting affects the environment. I believe spreading kindness and happiness are also environmental acts. This is why.

You and I share a wondrous sphere that we call Earth with billions of other people and non-human living things. Earth is our home, our only home.

People are struggling to survive and so is Earth. It is going to take all of us working together for the common good to heal our planet so that humans and non-humans can enjoy life and thrive.

Only a society of people who respect, value, and care for each other will be able to accomplish what we need to do. Hate, anger, and fear will not get the job done.

Every time you or I encounter another human being in person or in the digital world, we can choose to act with kindness and spread some happiness. I know this is not a novel concept. I am just trying to reinforce it.

For my part, I am endeavoring to be more kind (a work in progress) and to sprinkle a little bit of happiness in my neighborhood on the California Central Coast.

Happiness Sprinkling Project

Laura Lavigne started the Happiness Sprinkling Project in 2012 to sprinkle some happiness in her town of Anacortes, WA with hopes that the idea would spread. It has—all across the country and around the world.

People Wearing Yellow Standing on Street Corner Holding Happiness Sprinkling Signs
A group of people standing on a street corner sprinkling happiness on passersby and offering free hugs. Photo credit Happiness Sprinkling Project (click the photo to visit their website).

The photo above illustrates the simple yet compelling concept. People, often wearing yellow, gather on a street corner or near a sidewalk and hold up inspirational signs to lift the spirits of the people who pass by.

A business card that says “You Rock!” inspired me to adapt the happiness sprinkling idea to my yard.

You can read more about Laura’s Happiness Sprinkling Project and about how I came to have a “You Rock!” card on my desk in the post entitled, Can Happiness Save the World?

Happiness Sprinkling for Shy Introverts

Perhaps if I were an outgoing extroverted person I would have organized a happiness sprinkling in my small town. However, each morning I continue to wake up as the shy introverted person that I am. After pondering ways to spread some happiness in my neighborhood, I came up with the idea of making a sign that said “You Rock!” and putting it in our yard.

One evening in September 2017, I broached the subject with my family during dinner. They did not immediately take to the idea. Nor were they enthusiastic about me writing a post about happiness. A lively discussion ensued.

One comment was that it might be a waste of time and energy as the sign might go unnoticed. Someone else wanted to know what happiness had to do with my core mission, which is trying to convince you, me, and everyone else to live more lightly on Earth. My spouse saw it as another project I would need assistance to accomplish (rightly so).

Undaunted, I declared that happiness is pertinent to the environment. I told my family it would be worth it to me if only one person had her or his spirits raised by seeing a “You Rock!” sign in our yard. Someone replied, “How will you ever know?” That was a good point. However, I decided to proceed and have faith that it would brighten someone’s day even if I never knew it.

My mechanically inclined and creative spouse decided to help me by constructing a weather-resistant sign holder and using Photoshop to create the “You Rock!” sign on three letter-size pieces of printer paper. We installed the sign holder in our yard in a place visible to people driving their cars or walking up and down our street.

Green Groundswell You Rock Yard Sign
The sign holder and our first happiness sprinkling sign were installed in October 2017.

Almost immediately, I decided it would be fun to have a different sign each month. The printer paper sign had been difficult to make and was not durable so my spouse suggested we have some signs made out of corrugated plastic.

We both wanted to use sayings that are universal and are not political or religious in nature so that no one would be offended, even if she or he did not like the saying.

A Year of Sprinkling Happiness

Starting in October 2017, on the first day of each month (or close to it), my spouse and I have been changing out the sign. I thought I took a photo of each one, but apparently, I missed January and September. I photographed those signs last weekend to complete my collection.

You can see how little rain we had during last year’s rain cycle by how few signs show green wild grasses in the background.

During the past year, I received a few waves and a couple of honks from people driving by while I was working in the yard near the sign holder. Perhaps this was just neighbors being friendly and had nothing to do with the happiness sprinkling yard signs, but maybe it did.

On the evening of October 10, a year after we began the happiness sprinkling yard sign project, something unexpected happened.

My spouse and I had walked from our house to the senior center to attend a candidate forum for our local water district board of directors. After the forum, we were trudging up our street (it never gets less steep) when a car stopped in the middle of the street next to us. The woman driving the car rolled down her window. I thought she was going to offer us a ride as some people do when they see us or other neighbors hiking up our street.

You cannot imagine my amazement when she said, “I just want to let know how much I enjoy your inspirational signs.” I said I was glad she was enjoying them and off she went.

This experience sprinkled some happiness on me and reinforced my belief that anyone and everyone can spread kindness and happiness each in our own way.

Thanksgiving is a good day to practice.

Featured Image at Top:  Thanksgiving Decorations with Gourds, Corn, and Paper Native American and Pilgrim – Photo Credit Shutterstock/Magdalena Kucova

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