Young Activist Explains Her Deep Commitment to Reverse Climate Change

Posted Nov. 12, 2014

MP3 Interview with Sean Glenn, climate change activist and Great March for Climate Action participant, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

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The first week of November saw daily nonviolent civil disobedience actions at the offices of FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in Washington, D.C. The protest was organized by a group called Beyond Extreme Energy. Activists from the shale fields of Pennsylvania joined dozens of supporters in an effort to block entrances to the building to protest FERC's approval of almost all the natural gas infrastructure proposals that come before it.

In evaluating the projects, the commission does not consider the source of the energy, so the fact that the natural gas is produced by the fracking extraction method – with its attendant environmental and health impacts – is not a factor in FERC's decisions. Nor is the role natural gas plays in exacerbating climate change. Environmental critics charge that far from being a "bridge to a clean energy future," the construction of gas pipelines, compressor stations and export terminals is locking in the use of fossil fuels for decades to come.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus, who participated in the week of actions, interviewed Sean Glenn, a young woman who walked across the country with the Great March for Climate Action from March 1 to Nov. 1, when the group and its many supporters walked the last seven miles to the White House for a rally. The stated goal of the Great March for Climate Action was to change the hearts and minds of the American people, elected leaders and people across the world to act now to address the climate crisis. Here, Glenn explains her motivation for getting involved in the march, why she walked the first three months in silence and her decision to be arrested twice in three days by engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience.

SEAN GLENN: First of all, it was really, really easy. I actually really enjoyed it and found a whole level of comfort in it that I've never really felt before. I decided to do it for many reasons: to stand in solidarity with the unheard victims of climate change, which I was feeling like one of those; the plants, animals, people living in islands all over the place – I mean everyone, really, at this point, because climate change is a global issue and no one's really listening to that. And I wasn't ready to fight my way across the country, screaming about climate change and all the terrible things that are happening, because I was in school and I was just terribly depressed with the state of the world and the fact that no one was listening or ready to do anything about it. So those were the main two reasons for me. And also, we talk about stuff like this so much, and what are these words actually doing? To a certain extent, it's time to make a change rather than just keep talking about it over and over again. Yeah, it was a time of finding more peace within myself and a really great healing moment for myself and it was time to step back from my own story and let other people kind of build my story a little bit. They just really helped me to build this really happy, loving, peaceful, ready-to-go person, and I'm entirely humbled and grateful for the community for supporting me in my decision to do that, and so happy that they decided to help me carry it throughout the country when I decided it was time to speak.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I think that's really great. I've never tried that, but I can see that it could be really powerful. So, skipping ahead eight months, the march finished, well, marched in from Bethesda to the White House, which was a mere seven miles, because I know you did some days that were three times that long, and a lot of people joined you, including myself. That was my one and only day on the march. What was it like for you to finish the march in D.C.?

SEAN GLENN: It was an awesome day, our last day into D.C. This is our last day marching together, and this has been our life for eight months. But it was beautiful and I was just so ready to be there with everybody, and I know everyone was just tired, too. I think it was time for the march to end, and it was time for everybody to move on to the next step. It's been a huge growing experience and learning experience as far as what we think will really work in this movement and what we really feel we need to do as individuals in this movement. So, yeah, coming into D.C. it was really beautiful; there were people everywhere. I'm just so grateful I was given this opportunity and so happy I took it.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Well, speaking of BXE, Beyond Extreme Energy, and your participation all week here. It's been a very intense week. The last day of the march was Saturday and then you had a celebration that night, and then there was an all-day training on Sunday, and then people have been at FERC – Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – early every single morning this week, and it was sort of the culmination today, which was an amazing day, which you had a big part it, and you and Mack and Margaret got arrested again this morning. And that was pretty exciting because this was the last day of the activities and the group, Beyond Extreme Energy, was trying to shut down FERC because of its approvals of almost every natural gas project – fracked gas project – that comes before it. And so five of you locked down inside lock boxes, which are PVC pipes that you stick your arms into from both ends, and have to be cut out, basically – and took over the garage, just blockaded that. And that basically shut things down, like people couldn't get in – it was like if it was closed there, all the employees sort of bubbled up all around the front door and all across the street and they were all mixed in with the protesters and gave everyone a chance to have conversations, some of which were not confrontational (some were). Why did you decide to get arrested twice in three days?

SEAN GLENN: (Laughs) Well, it just seems like this is where we're at in this movement right now. We really need people willing to put themselves on the line, willing to serve time or pay money or do whatever we got to do to stop these projects, whether it's in an office signing on a "yes" to construction zone or going to the construction and actually halting the whole progress and the whole destruction of the land there and the communities and everything. In marching across the country, that's the one thing I learned I was very ready to do. I've done marches before. I've participated in rallies my whole life; and I've been knocking on doors and filling out petitions and all that. And, it's all good work; it's definitely good work. But I was just so ready to see something stop right in front of me for my own being there. It really is something I can't wait to do more of (laughs). And it's just an opportunity to use this physical body we're given to do some really good work and actually slow things down.

For more information on the FERC protests and related issues, visit Climatemarch.org.

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