What you tell others matters

In an absurd world, it means a lot when we as adults do even one thing that expresses who we truly are and what we can be and stand for.

Source: The Nuclear Freeze Movement, by John Carl Baker

I was on the BART train the other day with my mom, and I told her how important it was for me that she had been a part of the Nuclear Freeze Movement in the early 1980’s. At the time I was in middle school. I remember her heading out some evenings to attend meetings.

Now, from an adult’s perspective, she has always dismissed her efforts as insubstantial. But to a child, they seemed significant. Coming up in a world where lots of things didn’t make any sense at all; where the grownups seemed to be going against many of the fundamental tenets of their own morality; it mattered a lot that she was going to that.

The Nuclear Freeze campaign was a mass movement in the United States during the 1980s to secure an agreement between the U.S. and Soviet governments to halt the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. The movement quickly gained enormous public support and, together with antinuclear allies abroad, played a key role in curbing the nuclear arms race and preventing nuclear war.


The story I told myself about her efforts was that she was breaking from the normal flow of life to do something in service of the Earth and humanity. In my mind she was a warrior for the planet. She helped me to create an archetype of showing up for the things that mattered.

She has continued to do these things. Since retiring from teaching, she has helped to found and run Fossil Free California, a small group that has successfully managed to push forward several pieces of legislation in the state, and put pressure on California pension funds. (She downplays that too; I think it’s part of our legacy.)

The point is that what were perhaps small acts to an adult really meant a ton to a child. In an absurd world, it means a lot when we as adults do even one thing that expresses who we truly are and what we can be and stand for.

A few years later—at 17—I just sort of “happened” to be staying in a cheap room near Paddington Station (by myself), and when I walked out into the street, I found myself joining streams of protesters emerging from the West. It was one of the largest anti-nuclear demonstrations in British history. Some sweet people from Wales invited me to join them. It felt very meaningful.

I think the point of making this note is that it really matters what we all do—not just adults to young people, but all of us.

1999 Ant-WTO protests

The stories we tell each other about what’s possible (or not possible) are infectious. Don’t lose a chance to tell others a story about what’s possible. And don’t let your small and fearful self (“oh, it’s not really that much”) stop you from telling everyone a story that lets us all become more and more of who we truly are.

Notes from early 2019 Climate Strike in San Francisco

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