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1,000 Paper Cranes for a Better Future

by the Ride for the Future 2013 team

“This is our cry, this is our prayer: for building peace in the world.” These words are inscribed at the base of a monument at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Although we are separated by continents and time, this wish echoes even stronger in the dreams of our generation. In a time when our world, our home, is facing immense ecological and social crises, this is our cry, this is our wish: to take part in the healing of our world by pushing for a transition beyond fossil fuels towards an ecologically just future for all.

In 2013, the Ride of the Future team took action to draw attention to one of the areas of the United States that is most affected by climate change and the fossil fuel industry: the Gulf Coast. A group of seven students from across the U.S. biked from New Orleans, Louisiana to Houston, Texas. They visited various communities that face the direct impacts of the extraction and refining of coal, oil, and natural gas (oil spills, water contamination, lung cancer, asthma, etc.), as well as natural disasters that have been intensifying because of climate change.

Along the way, they sought to be active listeners of these community member’s stories and not only learn from them, but work with them as they fight back against these industries, demanding justice. We are facing huge challenges: climate change, the reality that our world could end as a life-sustaining planet, and the systems of oppression that these industries create and perpetuate in our society. That is why we are working to heal our world, to heal our home.

The 2013 team was only seven students, but they realized that we all have powerful tools to help us along this journey –
folding cranes dglove, relationships, our stories, and a collective wish. According to Japanese legend, a person who folds a thousand paper cranes is granted one wish. Inspired by Sadako Sasaki, an 11 year-old Hiroshima survivor, the team decided to fold one thousand cranes during their journey and invite everyone they meet to share their stories, their vision for a better future, on square sheets of paper. Their goal was to take these stories and cranes to share with others along our journey.

This art installation is an invitation to take part in the healing of our world. The paper crane as a symbol of peace and healing, is rooted in the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. It started out as the single cry of the young girl Sasaki, whose one wish when diagnosed with leukemia was to live. But soon it transformed into something much bigger – a worldwide cry for peace in our world.

We are here to join that cry and make our voices heard. We are here to take action in creating a better future that we all deserve. In the same way that nuclear warfare and radiation threaten the lives of millions, fossil fuels are endangering all life on this planet. But what we must understand is that all oppressions are intertwined. Whether you are facing injustices from fossil fuel extraction or radiation, homophobia, sexism, or racism, we must collectively come together to fight back and build a better future for ourselves and future generations.

cranes on table

We invite you to join us by sharing your story to stand in solidarity with the communities that we meet. Together this art installation symbolizes our collective wish for a better future. Yes, we are facing immense challenges, but by coming together to build relationships and share our stories, we form a powerful moral force. More powerful than any of the violence and oppression we face today – we are a healing force.

What kind of future do you want?