When world leaders meet in Paris to sign a treaty tackling climate change, activists will be watching. Thousands plan to blockade the streets near the U.N. Climate Summit later this month because they worry that leaders may compromise in protecting the planet.
But even from thousands of miles away, you can urge the nations to agree to crack down on fossil fuels and other human drivers of climate change.
For instance, several environmental groups organized the Climate Games, a series of "creative disobedience" protests worldwide.
"For 20 years (hence COP21) the same players have been playing by the same rigged rules: 'business as usual.' The only thing that has come out of the talks is hot air and a rise of CO2 emissions of over 60 percent," the site says. "Paris will be a world stage, where we, people power, raise the curtain on the smoke and mirrors of false corporate promises and pierce through the Mesh's [i.e. corporate power's] hold on us."
While the concept may seem a bit cryptic, the Games' site urges anyone to organize in their own communities—and keep track of their efforts online by posting pictures and stories. In turn, the site will track the location of authorities who may try to impede the activists' progress.
If you're less into guerrilla activism, you still have options.
More than 1,000 cities around the world are planning to host an event for the Global Climate March around November 29. You can find one near you here or organize your own.
Those in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, a town of almost 6,000, can attend a vigil for climate justice on the 28th on the post office steps. Spouses Doug Orbaker and Penn Garvin spearheaded the event as a way to bring awareness to the need for climate action not only an international stage but locally.
Almost 40 percent of their county thinks that global warming isn't happening, according to a Yale map that tracks belief in climate change.
"We're not getting hit by rising sea levels as you would be if you were living in Manhattan. We haven't had horrible hurricanes strike us. So a lot of people just look around and say, 'I don't see the difference,'" says Garvin. "It's important that people understand that there is a worldwide problem. It's not what's just going on in Union County."
For Orbaker, a former pastor and then missionary in Nicaragua, and Garvin, a longtime community organizer, having a livable planet is the largest human rights problem today.
The retirees have seen firsthand how environmental degradation hurts the poor and those of color the most, and doesn't really affect middle-class white folks like them—at least initially.
The Global Catholic Climate Movement, which brings together more than 200 groups, has a similar stance: As Pope Francis reinforced in a letter to the faithful this summer, acting on climate change is a moral imperative.
"You can find passages in all of the Christian writings about caring for God's creations," says Patrick Carolan, a GCCM co-founder and executive director of the Franciscan Action Network. "One of the things the pope talks about is the connectedness of all these issues. So, migration, poverty, climate, they're all the same issue."
You can join the 500,000 Catholics so far in signing a petition that urges those at the U.N. talks to "drastically cut carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous 1.5°C threshold, and to aid the world’s poorest in coping with climate change impacts."
Petitions like GCCM's offer you a good platform to get your voice heard at the summit.
With nearly 80 million Catholics in the U.S. alone, the Church has great mobilizing potential—as well as historical precedent.
"For Franciscans, this is part of our tradition. We've been doing this kind of stuff for 800 years," Carolan says. "We're looking at living as part of creation—as being part of a whole different being. It's a connectedness to all of creation, as opposed to separate from."
The GCCM's aiming for 1 million signatures by the time the talks begins Nov. 30, so you'll be part of an influential bloc of concerned folks. Non-Catholics have their share of petitions as well, including those from theSierra Club and Climate Reality Project.
Even after the talks come to a close Dec. 11, you can continue to hold your leaders accountable in myriad ways.
The Global Catholic Climate Movement invites congregations and individuals to fast from sunrise to sundown in December to remember the peril our climate faces. You can find details online as the event approaches.
Patrick Carolan hopes such reflection will make Catholics rethink their selves in relation to creation, as a part of a whole. They can take their transformations within themselves out to their communities, pressuring both religious and political leaders to make a change.
Self-reflection will benefit everyone, continues Doug Orbaker.
"What my expectation of the Paris talks is some wonderful sounding document with no teeth in it at all, which will then be stuck on the shelves and never opened again," he says.
"We need to be continually talking with our congresspeople, making sure that our government knows that people in the United States are serious about adopting the measures that will be talked about and put out as recommendations in Paris and even strengthening them."
"We have been brought up to think that our government and those in power will do the best for us, and that does not happen," adds Garvin. "That is one of the biggest problems we have: to change our own thinking. We have to grab a hold and say, 'Not in my name.'"
Post-Paris summit, organizers from 350.org are gathering a crowd by the Statue of Liberty. On Dec.12, people plan to wear green and call on world leaders to support climate justice.
They originally were going to draw a red line around the monument that symbolized the line nations shouldn't cross when it comes to protecting the environment, like those with the Climate Games, but it felt inappropriate because of the people killed in the November Paris terrorist attacks.
But the need for their activism feels greater than ever.
"Our world is facing dangers in so many different respects, and if we don't stop the climate crisis, all of these other issues are going to exacerbated," says Marilyn Vasta, part of the steering committee for 350NYC. "What will happen in the Middle East when there are food shortages? What will happen in New York when the tides rise? We won't have the institutions and the mechanisms that we have now to both feed and nurture and take care of our population."
Waves of refugees are already evacuating their homes because of extreme weather prompted by climate change. Even the sturdy Statue of Liberty would be unable to withstand the likes of the 200-mile-per-hour winds that came with the hurricane that hit Mexico this October.
No wonder activists are fighting for the Earth they love so dearly.
Photo courtesy of the Climate Games.
Emily Zak is a Santa Fe-based social justice writer. Her work also appears on sites like Care2 and Heart Beings. A native Idahoan, she wishes she could ski powder and play pond hockey year-round. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyEZak.