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Mitzvah Moments - November 2014


Mitzvah Moments - November 2014
On the People’s Climate Train

by Tish Levee

Last month I wrote this column on the train heading to Montana to hike with 32 other climate activists, ranging in age from 23 to 74, in Glacier National Park, MT. With no Wi-fi available (I use the internet a lot to research for this column), I had to look through my computer files for information I could use. 

This month I am again on the train, but I don’t have my computer with me – just a borrowed iPad. So I’m going to share with you what I’m doing on a more macro level to protect the climate and fight against climate change.

I am on a truly epic journey, writing this on board Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited train between Cleveland OH and Erie PA. It’s Day Three of the People’s Climate Train and I’m with 170 other people who all believe in the need to take action on the climate crisis and who are doing so. We are going to NYC to the People’s Climate March, which will be the largest climate action ever—with nearly 2000 other actions planned worldwide.

On the train we’ve had incredible workshops on diverse subjects, including one which really laid out the chemistry of climate change by a woman who teaches AP Environmental science in Jackson CA. 

It’s encouraging seeing so many young people here and so many of them people of color. But there are also many of what we call the OGs, or “old grey hairs,” including the World War II veteran, age 92, and his 79-year wife sitting in front of me. All the OGs I’ve spoken to have said the same thing, “This is the most important issue of our time and the most important thing I can do with the rest of my life,” with which I totally agree.

We started out with 130 people in Emeryville, and people kept boarding as we came across the country. Another 30 people joined us in Chicago. Some of them took buses for several hours to join the train; two women took the train from New Mexico; and five people from Eugene OR took the Empire Builder across the northern plains so that they could see the results of the Bakken oil rush in North Dakota for themselves.

One woman drove for nearly two hours to catch the train in Burlington IL. She’s joining her sisters and father at the March, which they are doing partly as a memorial to her mother who said, before she died in June, “If I were here in September, I would be there. Please go for me.”

There are as many stories as there are people on the train. A family practice doctor who took a sabbatical so she could devote herself to the climate crisis; a young man whose boss made it possible for him come on this trip; people doing community organizing; a documentary filmmaker from Oakland and two from Finland; ministers and Native American spiritual leaders; two Buddhist nuns and a Roman Catholic Franciscan nun.

A big rally, covered by national media, sent the Climate Train off in Emeryville. In Reno, Glenwood Springs CO, and Denver, people of all ages came out to meet us and held rallies. 

As we have crossed the country we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of climate change in America. We’ve seen windmills in Ohio, Illinois, and upstate New York—the number amazed me; lawns and lush green golf courses in the desert; smoke from the fires in the Sierras; refineries outside Denver CO lighting up the night sky; miles and miles of corn being grown for ethanol; and over a hundred coal cars passing in just one place. Meanwhile, as we rolled across America, with banners showing from the windows, posters in the observation car, and our signature blue and white People’s Climate Train tee-shirts, we were all taking actions in sync with our values:

• Of course just taking the train was an ecological action. Train travel produces less CO2 than air travel or driving. Some people took a week off work so they could make this trip by train.

• We had Amtrak set up two extra trash bins in the observation car--one for recycling and one for compost. Then we put a sign on every trash container on the train directing people to the recycling/compost station. One of us took the compost off in Chicago for pickup by a local composter.

• Because the cafe sold out of yogurt and vegan burgers, the attendant called ahead to ask the train we’re now on to stock extra of these more healthful and ecological options.

• No one bought bottled water; everyone carried their own bottles and lined up at rest stops to fill them.  

• By sharing rooms in NYC and using public transit, we reduced our carbon footprint. 

Follow me on the Climate Hike in Montana, the People’s Climate Train, and at the People’s Climate March in NYC, at

© Copyright Tish Levee, 2014. All rights reserved