Here's the story of how the Estes Valley Indivisible group used the Climate Ribbon project to create a Tree of Unity in the Colorado Rockies... and how you can too.
By: Rae Abileah and Jasmine Holan
On Sunday, April 8, the Climate Ribbon was invited to Estes Valley Indivisible (EVI), as a main feature at their one-year anniversary special event. After an inaugural year of many successes, a major challenge that could have split the group was overcome. To mark the anniversary and celebrate coming together, Jasmine Holan and Rae Abileah co-created the Climate Ribbon ritual presentation, and in the process dreamed up a new version of how to make and assemble a Climate Ribbon Tree that you can use in your community. The ritual went beautifully and the group brainstormed ideas for how to use the Climate Ribbon in their local outreach, renewable energy campaigns, and community engagement moving forward. They formed a steering committee with eight people to put these ideas into action… stay tuned for more!
A strong, community-built tree
We built the Tree using a felled tree trunk drilled with holes so that the group could assemble the tree together live by adding on the branches during the ritual.
Here’s how you can do it, too:
Find a felled tree - we used a lodgepole pine - and use a chainsaw to cut a section of the trunk. We cut a 6’ length. Make sure the bottom cut is perfectly even for stability.
Gather fallen branches for the tree limbs. Dead, dried branches will weigh less. We put 12 branches onto our tree. You’ll want larger branches on bottom, smaller toward the top.
Buy a 2’x2’ piece of plywood from your local hardware store. We used a thick piece, but depending on the weight of your trunk, ⅜” may do just fine. Also buy 4 long deck screws.
Use a drill and deck screws to screw the base of the trunk into the middle of the plywood base. Stand up the trunk and check for stability.
Use a drill with a paddle/large drill bit to drill holes for your branches. Try to follow the natural radial pattern of tree limbs, meaning not drilling holes at the same place around the circumference, but working your way up in a spiral. Drill holes at a downward angle, and large enough for the branches you collected to fit in. Check that your branches will fit in and arrange them in a way that looks balanced and beautiful.
Paint the base of each branch a different color and put the corresponding color into the holes on the tree trunk. Voila, you’re ready to go!
This tree design was co-created by Jasmine, Rae, Mike, Marta, Bryon, Leslie, and Mark, residents of mountain communities in the Colorado Rockies from Nederland to Allenspark, and with design input from Kate McNeely and Gan Golan.
A Ritual for a Large Group Meeting
Here’s the scaffolding of the ritual we co-led for EVI - feel free to use for your group meeting:
Setup: Set up tree sculpture and hang banner (if you have one). On each table (we had round tables with 6 people sitting around, more people can become chatty), put: 1 branch, 12 ribbons (2 per person), 6 pens, 6 Climate Ribbon info postcards (email us to get a DIY kit in the mail that will include these glossy postcards - firstname.lastname@example.org), 1 piece of blank paper for group brainstorm. Ideally you’ll have enough core volunteers to have one sitting at each table.
Intro to event & intro to the Climate Ribbon Project: The Climate Ribbon is a project that started out as the finale of the People’s Climate March in NYC in 2014, was witnessed by nearly half a million people, and continued on to be a large art installation at the UN climate conference in Paris. It’s traveled all over the world and touched thousands… read Rae’s intro below.
Reflect: Please take a moment to reflect on this question: What do you love and hope to never lose to Climate Chaos? What's at stake for you? Be specific and personal. Think of a place, person, quality of community, aspect of your town here in the Rockies…
Write ribbons: Take two ribbons. On each one you will what you love, name, age, where you live here (or your hometown). Write your response twice, once on each ribbon, if you have more than one thought, you can write two different responses. Alternate idea: make the second ribbon a different prompt, such as: What is one action you are willing to do to protect this place? Activism, spiritual practice, personal choice. What would be a stretch for you? Something you’re not yet doing, something you’re willing to give up… Since the group we were working with was a political action group, we felt the connection between members making a commitment to act as a guardian of another’s beloved place was more significant and appropriate than a single task each person might commit to doing.
Share: Ask a few people to share what they wrote on their ribbons and invite the group to say “[Person’s name], we are with you” after each reading.
Pair share: Now ask people to turn to someone next to them and read their ribbons, saying to each other [Person’s name], I am with you” so that everyone gets a chance to be witnessed and heard.
Tie: Ask participants to tie one of their ribbons onto the tree branch at their table, and display the other ribbon on their table. These ribbons are a symbol of what we love, what we are committing to protect and hold dear, and what we would grieve to lose.
Choose & Exchange a ribbon: Ask participants to read through the ribbons on their table and choose one that is meaningful. Take this ribbon and ask a neighbor to tie it onto their wrist. In making this exchange, we are committing to become guardians of what the other person holds dear, and as we look back to all the good work this Indivisible group has done over the past year, we also think of our actions moving forward, and these ribbons serve as a kind of treaty we make with each other to take meaningful action for climate justice.
Processional: Ask one person from each table to carry their table’s branch up to the front of the room to assemble a tree together. Have one person receive the branch and place it into the tree corresponding with the color painted on the end of the branch. During the processional we sang Voice of My Great Granddaughter from our new Climate Ribbon Song Sheet.
Closing words: Together, we are strong, a unified tree. May we care for each other and be the protectors and champions of each other’s hopes and dreams. May the solidarity we witnessed today be a foundation for this Indivisible group and movement. May it weave our stories together, and make our movement real. And let’s remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King: “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Discussion: Thank you for participating. We close this ritual time and shift now into a moment for discussion. Brainstorm at tables of how this activity/ritual can be used in local advocacy campaigns and outreach on climate change-related issues. Each table has a blank piece of paper, please have a notetaker jot down your ideas on this paper as we won’t have time to hear from all groups and want to harvest your great ideas.
Follow up: Pass around a sign-up sheet for people to sign up to work on the Climate Ribbon steering committee and a basket for donations to the project. If you are collecting donations for the Climate Ribbon, you can ask people to make checks payable to Beautiful Trouble and send to The Climate Ribbon, ℅ Andrew Boyd, 139 Norfolk Street #3D, New York, NY 10002. The Climate Ribbon is a project of Beautiful Trouble (EIN 47-2115720), a not-for-profit corporation registered in the state of New York, which is fiscally sponsored by the Backbone Campaign (EIN 93-1271427), a federal tax-exempt nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Some points about fundraising: Tonight we are fundraising to support this beautiful and heartfelt project. Beyond our local community, funds raised will allow the Climate Ribbon to do more nationally and internationally by serving schools, faith institutions and organizations around the country with DIY ribbon kits and action support, and using this creative project to influence UN negotiators at the future Climate Summits. In 2018 the project will also be going to the Parliament of World’s Religions in Toronto, Canada and the national People’s Climate March. The small Climate Ribbon team does a lot with a little, and building trees, maintaining a website, shipping supplies, etc. costs money.
One way to introduce the Climate Ribbon at your event
These are notes from the intro that we gave to the Ribbon at the EVI event, and this text was composed by Rae Abileah and Andrew Boyd.
Our Shared Past
All the great successful movements — whether Gandhi and the Indian Independence movement, Mandela and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, or our own civil rights movement here in the US -- were not just about the head, and feet (in the streets), but about the heart and the soul. And when we talk about the movement around climate change, we’ve got to have that similar heart and soul connection if we want to be great, if we want to have a fighting chance of a post-carbon future. That’s what we’re about today.
Our Shared Future
When it comes to climate change, everything is at stake for us, everything we love is on the line. If I had to sum up what our movement is about in one phrase, it would be: Love vs. Climate Chaos. To honestly face the facts of climate change is not easy. We know that for the last 11,000 years the temperature of the planet has been relatively stable. Over the last 200 years — with a sharp acceleration in the last 30 — we've raised the average temperature of the planet an alarming 0.85°C. Global temperature change leads to massive floods, extinction of species, droughts that lead to famine… the list goes on and on.
The scale of potential devastation as we approach a 2-degree Celsius temperature rise is so great that we feel overwhelmed. We switch off. Often it’s not a lack of information that leads to inaction, but emotional paralysis. For many of us the worst is yet to come—it’s still abstract, so we put it out of our minds. Here today we have created a safe space to open our hearts to the reality of what is happening to us and our planet. To share both our hope and our grief.
A side note that may be worth mentioning at this point: While research shows that fear is a more powerful motivator than hope when it comes to behaviors such as diet and fitness, inspiring social change seems to depend more on a positive vision of the future, according to the social movement, political science, and neuroscience experts with whom I spoke. ‘This rhetoric about ‘we only have a certain amount of time’ is a killer. It doesn’t make people engaged, it makes them give up. You have to be hopeful,’ says David Meyer, professor of sociology at U.C. Irvine and author of The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot confirmed this, saying: ‘Our studies show that people don’t process information when what is being communicated is how things will get worse.’
Our Shared Commitment
The UN created a climate treaty that the Trump administration backed out of. So, what we’re doing here today, at this gathering and with these ribbons, is to make a People’s Treaty. A treaty we all make publicly with each other, and a process of tying hopes and prayers to trees which is rooted (no pun intended!) in cultures all over the world from Armenia to Tibet to Native American traditions. The Climate Ribbon is our movement’s equivalent of the AIDS Quilt—a mass distributed art-ritual to grieve what each of us stands to lose to Climate Chaos, and affirm our solidarity as we unite to fight against it. When asked, what do you love and hope to never lose to climate chaos, here’s what some people have responded:
Miami, my city. - Lynda Montoya from South Florida
The hope that my children can live healthy lives. - Jon from Milwaukee
A.J., a 10-year-old boy from the Rockaways in New York who’d been displaced by Hurricane Sandy, wrote: My books, my toys, my best friend, my apartment, my mom. He’d seen the ocean rise up and try to take all that away once; he didn’t want it to happen again.
When I wrote my first ribbon I immediately thought of where I grew up, and wrote “The California coastline and the sea anemones.” But later I realized it’s not only biodiversity and topography that is disappearing. There’s also the potential for community dynamics to unravel. Climate Ribbon project co-creator Andrew Boyd wrote on his ribbon: "The kindness among strangers." As I imagine the flood of refugees and the panic and crunch of scarcity turning people cruel, this one feels like a very precious ribbon, a very heartbreaking idea.
This evening, let’s make it personal by engaging in a creative ritual for about a half hour.
We begin by giving thanks to be meeting on this land, land of the Arapaho people [insert name of the indigenous community on whose land you are gathering], give thanks for the opportunity to live in this place and to gather together and for our ancestors who called us into life by their hard work and love.