Embodying Nonviolence through Language

Posted on behalf of Abbie Goldberg, Video Coordinator for the North Shore Team

“We’re here to fight the good fight and combat climate change one battle at a time”. This isn’t something I’ve said, not exactly, but I can imagine myself saying it or any of my friends saying something like this in anything from a speech at a rally to a 30 second pitch for climate action at a farmer’s market. It’s snappy, and inspirational, if empty and it sounds like strong commitment to power and action. Lately though I’ve been thinking about the language I use and how it relates to my values and ideas. My vision of a better world doesn’t stop at no fossil fuels, but also includes a structural and cultural shift towards a world that respects all life and works to find understanding and common ground. That means a lot of things, way too many to go into now, but one piece is not resorting to violence to solve conflicts. As such, using militaristic words like “fight”, “combat” and “battle” doesn’t seem to be in line with my values. I would also like to acknowledge that I come to this movement privileged enough to not have to be here for my own immediate survival which is not the case for everyone.  In other situations these words may make a lot of sense or be used with specific intention. This entry is about only my experiences, and not-yet-sorted-out thoughts on my personal use of violent language.

 

The team with our lovely friends in Newburyport- building power through friends.

The team with our lovely friends in Newburyport- building power through friends.

Calling something like the Salem Gas Plant a “battle” or a “fight” feels powerful and strong. War is sexy. It’s about glory, power, and strength. Not to mention there’s a certain legitimacy to the word fight that any substitute words I can think of just don’t hold. But where did that legitimacy come from and do I really want to be affirming that legitimacy? When I operate within the systems already in place, in the “territory” (to use a vaguely combative sounding word) of all I’m against, I think it limits my vision to stay within this preexisting structure. I take the story that’s been given to me and then end up fighting it on someone else’s terms rather than writing a new story.

Often times it’s just practical to use this sort of language. It’s obvious and I don’t even know the alternatives. For instance, the English language has no word for nonviolence, that is to say an active commitment to a lifestyle of transformative acts of empathy rather than simply the passive absence of violence. The word itself puts the act in the context of violence. I don’t even really know how to talk about what I mean when I say things like grounding myself in love or solidarity. Words fail when I try to express my thoughts about bold nonviolence or the power of art and music. One of the reasons we need art and music is to create a language for the margins and experiences outside of dominant ideas, but in the day to day, I struggle to speak with clarity without sounding idealistic, “hippie dippy” or just plain naïve.

Kelly and Sophie- does this look like a battle?

Kelly and Sophie- does this look like a battle?

Beyond that there’s something weirdly intuitive about using militaristic language. Even though I know I don’t agree with violence I still think “yeah, but calling it anything besides “battle” else wouldn’t really do justice”. Which is ridiculous. Because in actuality, I think using the word “battle” doesn’t do these struggles justice. The Salem Gas plant is a complicated issue around a thriving and beautiful community with a history of resistance. It is people coming together, building power and standing strong even when the issues around natural gas can be complicated even to people who consider themselves climate activists or environmentalists. This is not about two sides trying to destroy each other; it’s recognizing the underlying values we all share of health, safety and happiness and from that engaging with the process of building the future we need to see. How could the word “battle” do justice to something so layered and intentional and complicated and beautiful?

And on some level it might not really matter what individual words I’m using. Not to mention it’s just really, really hard sometimes to think of alternatives that hold the same amount of resolve and oomph. At the same time, I want to be intentional in my messages and visionary of a world with a paradigm of mutuality and understanding. I think using the framework of militaristic language can limit my ability to be truly visionary of what that future might look like and maybe even perpetuate a culture of antagonism. I don’t know what the alternative is any more than I know all the alternatives to the economic and social structures that have led to so much oppression, but I wonder if there’s a way to liberate language from the dominant paradigm and in doing so work to embody the vision of a better future.

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Setting Off Sparks

by Georgette Sordellini, Media Coordinator for the Western MA team

There were a quite a few times throughout the past few weeks where I felt low in spirits and there are many reasons as to why I felt this way; but they all pointed to the same things. I didn’t have this feeling because of the stress that comes with what we were doing, but because of the apathy that I encountered on a daily basis. Or at least I perceived many of my encounters with people as their being apathetic.

I remember one particular day after canvassing at a farmers’ market where I didn’t feel like I was getting through to people about this dire issue we were working on. I’m not from this area and this pipeline won’t affect me, but I still really care about the work that is being put into this movement. I still dedicated my summer to these campaigns that are going on, so why don’t people care?

My teammates and I talk to a woman at the Amherst farmers' market.

My teammates and I talk to a woman at the Amherst farmers’ market.

After every conversation I had with someone, I felt like they listened to what Ihad to say, but that was it. There was no direct follow up (mostly because we aren’t inareas for long) and we personally wouldn’t see what they would do after one of us had a conversation with them. One teammate said something about how even though we don’t see directly how these conversations with people affect them, it is like setting off a little spark. They will take that information and keep it somewhere, maybe in the back of their brain, but the next time they hear of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline or natural gas, they will think about how there are people working against it.

Me and my teammate Dineen. The spark has caught with us!

Me and my teammate Dineen. The spark has caught with us!

These little sparks remind me of something Marla said to us before we departed on our journeys this summer, the same talk I mentioned in my last blog post. Part of this work is “running around setting off little sparks.” For example, the Keystone XL pipeline is just one of many pipelines that are proposed at the moment, but it is one that has caught on and has created a fire within people. As organizers, we run around setting off these sparks, too see which one of them catches.

So a conversation with a person can be like a spark, most of them won’t catch, but when one does it may just turn into a roaring fire.

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New Town New Stories

Posted on behalf of Hallie Kenyon, Social Media Coordinator, Team For the MASSes.

Team For the MASSes worked in Burrillville, Rhode Island since Sunday, July 13th.

Team For the MASSes with Kathy (in the middle) and her friends, Tom and Mary Anne.

Team For the MASSes with Kathy (in the middle) and her friends, Tom and Mary Anne.

While we were here, we were working with this outstanding women, Kathy.  Prior to coming here, we had no information whatsoever about Kathy, except for her home phone number.

On Monday, July 14th we planned to meet up with Kathy at her home around 1 pm.  After riding our bikes from Slatersville Congregational Church in North Smithfield, RI to the far north-west corner of Burrillville, RI, we made it to her house.  The only way we could identify Kathy’s house was the giant “No Compressor Station” sign located in her front yard along the fence.  Her house was built by her grandfather, and is still in Kathy’s possession three generations later.  The best part about riding up to Kathy’s house was the enthusiasm in which she greeted us with!  Her face lit up with excitement as she saw six “kids,” as she calls us, ride up to meet her.  Since the church we are staying at in Slatersville is 12 miles from Kathy’s house, we decided to spend the night there and really take advantage of the short time we had together.  After we put our belongings down into the unfinished part of the house, we all gathered in the tiny kitchen, the main part of her home, to begin getting to know one another. We started with typical introductions and then Kathy began to speak.

Words cannot describe Kathy to the extent of how great she is. There is nothing fake in her voice, her stories, or her attitude; she is always speaking from the heart.  Kathy is not an environmentalist, a scientist, a tree hugger and all other stereotypical categories of people pursuing a cleaner and sustainable future, though she

After a successful day of canvasing, Team For the MASSes, Kathy, and friends Mary Anne and Tom enjoyed  delicious pizza!

After a successful day of canvasing, Team For the MASSes, Kathy, and friends Mary Anne and Tom enjoyed delicious pizza!

does  take a lot of effort to recycle and conserve her resources. Kathy is just looking out for herself and her neighbors!  One day, a member of the group FANG (Fighting Against Natural Gas) was going door to door, canvassing about the proposed expansion of the Spectra pipeline and he wanted to get community outreach to help stop this project.  When he reached Kathy’s door, her enthusiasm and general concern was there, but he suspected she wouldn’t get involved after their initial conversation.  To his surprise, Kathy right away put herself in charge of the project.  No one else in the town of Burrillville were doing anything and she saw this added compressor station to be unjust.  Something needed to be done and someone needed to stop it. In the past few months, Kathy educated herself on the compressor  station expansion proposal, the harms that already occur from the existing compressor station, and the greenhouse gas emissions.

Kathy IS this fight.  Her work is starting from the bare back bones, trying to educate her neighbors, trying to get community involvement, and trying to get support from other organizations.  Myself and my teammates had the opportunity to canvas the neighborhoods of Burrillville with Kathy and see her work her magic! She currently has eight people that she picks up, they do not have cars and cannot drive, to their meetings every other week.  If she had the means, Kathy would pick up every single citizen in Burrillville to come to events and meetings related to this project.    Her passion and devotion to this cause is inspiring and I’ve gained so much knowledge from her in just the past four days! I, and all of my team members,  are  honored to be working with her.  Our time here in Burrillville, Rhode Island wouldn’t be the same without Kathy and we wouldn’t want it any other way!

The sign in front of Kathy's house, opposing the proposed expansion of the Algonquin compressor station.

The sign in front of Kathy’s house, opposing the proposed expansion of the Algonquin compressor station.

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Carolyn the Helpful

Posted on behalf of Ariel Schwalb, Community Outreach Coordinator for Team North Shore

The first time our team met Carolyn Britt, she was at the joint GASPP and Healthlink meeting on the first of July. We had a busy night and I didn’t get to speak to her except to exchange a few words about planning for Ipswich and writing down her phone number. I spoke with her a few days later and felt so productive because she had so many ideas for us to get involved in her little town.

IMG_6580

Our first meeting with Health Link and GASPP in Marblehead.

We arrived on the seventh, which was my birthday, and met her at the church we are staying at, which is called First Church. We were a bit behind schedule and the weather looked threatening. She spoke to us about our first town event as we ate.

We walked down to the town hall building for the town meeting, up the stairs and into an authoritative meeting room, where chairs faced a speaking panel and every seat in the spotlight had its own sleek microphone. Multiple cameras observed the panel from different angles. When it was time, during the citizen’s quarry of the meeting, Carolyn and I went up to the panel. She introduced our group, explained our mission, and gave me the stage. I spoke for two minutes to the town members about how I was a college student, how my interest in the clean energy transition influenced my decision to do Climate Summer, and how we should be cautious about building the Salem gas plant when methane leaks and explosions are costly to the area and society as a whole. “Do you always wear your matching shirts?” One man asked me. “Yes,” I replied, “This is our business brown shirt, and when we bike, we wear our orange ones so we don’t get hit by passing cars.” They laughed and we left. The town of Ipswich may be investing in the plant and we wanted to introduce ourselves early on.

Ariel canvassing at Zumi's.

Ariel canvassing at Zumi’s.

The next morning we took up another of Carolyn’s strategic suggestions. We went to Zumi’s Café, a popular coffee shop where Umesh, the owner, knows many of the regulars on a first name basis. He let us make signs about Climate Summer for the door to help us reach the people we wouldn’t necessarily meet, but then he went the next level. He pulled his good customers to the side and asked them to sit down one on one with us so that we could talk about the work we are doing, ask them if they would want to join the 350 Massachusetts North Shore Node, which would connect concerned citizens from all over the area, and have them sign our gas tariff and tar sands postcard petitions. Umesh bought us beverages and made us feel at home, despite our guest status. There was a strong sense of community there and I am so glad she thought of Zumi’s.

Later in the day, around noon, Sophie and I had our first ever television interview with Carolyn in the town hall basement. The lights were bright and the set up reminded me of interviewing celebrities on the daily show, but overall it was fun and exciting to be on that side of the television.

I went to her beautiful house the next day for a shower and a strategy meeting about sea level rise for the next day. Her house would be flooded in a category 4 hurricane. We planned the sea level rise signs we wanted to display for the cars going to the beach on the causeway.

Later she took us out to dinner at a Thai restaurant. I forgot what it was like to eat in a restaurant. The food was fantastic.

So if you are reading this, Carolyn, thank you for everything. When we were thinking about going to Ipswich, we were a little apprehensive because we didn’t have that many connections in the area, and there were no groups actively opposing the plant situated in the town, most likely because of the distance from Salem. If it wasn’t for you, Carolyn, we probably would have had a quiet stay here and we might have felt discouraged.

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A Sense of Place

Posted on behalf of Richard Hewitt, Groton Massachusetts resident

Almost 40 years ago, my wife-to-be Diane and I drove through Central Massachusetts on our way from Cambridge, MA to Antioch Graduate School in Keene, NH. We were captivated by the rural beauty of the area and the picture postcard classic New England town of Groton, in particular. I always fantasized about building my own home and when I received a small inheritance, I decided to go for it. Groton was the first place we looked for a piece of land.

Me and my wife Diane with our home. The yellow tape marks where the pipeline would be.

Me and my wife Diane with our home. The yellow tape marks where the pipeline would be.

After about half a year of searching, we found a beautiful spot in the woods not far from the Nashua River. After purchasing the land we bought a pick-up truck, chain saw and power tools, in that order, and began to clear the heavily forested land. Along with the help of a good friend and occasional contributions from friends and family, we built a beautiful, energy-efficient house in which we still live happily today. We took great pride in designing the house to fit the land, as opposed to the usual practice of clearing and leveling the land to fit the house. We left standing as many trees as possible and designed the home for maximum solar benefit. After many trials and tribulations and much sweat equity, we finished the house enough to move in. My wife and I married and spent the next year of weekends finishing off countless “odds and ends”.

We have lived our entire married life in this home and on this land. Our two sons spent their entire childhoods here and in the surrounding woods. We consider this far more than a house – it’s our home, our only home, the only one our family has ever known. This is our homestead and we hoped it would be our legacy to leave to our children. Now, suddenly, everything is threatened by the coming of this large-scale, high-pressure gas pipeline within feet of out house. It’s hard to comprehend how this is possible in America. How can the federal government grant a company the power of eminent domain to take our land? And it’s not just our land. Land that we gave to the local Conservation Trust is, to add insult to injury, is also being taken, along with a local state park. This is an environmental outrage that all New England electric rate payers will have to pay for through a special tariff for decades to come. How is this possible?

Climate Summer getting a tour of our property

Climate Summer getting a tour of our property

As troubling as this project is on the intellectual level, it is even more devastating on an emotional level. Having recently retired and paid off our mortgage, we were looking forward to a few “golden years:” gardening, maintaining the forested areas, and making improvements to the house. Now, it feels as though we have been the victim of a lightening strike out of the clear blue; the home that we worked so hard for could be destroyed at the whim of a distant corporation.

We have been pretty good about taking one day at a time, focusing on small tasks, and generally “staying calm and carrying on.” Still, every so often you just become overwhelmed with sadness and rage. I dread the closing days if the worst were to come to pass, but I am sustained by the small, daily successes of our grassroots activist group and the support of conservation organizations, homeowners, and local leaders. This is a long battle and the final outcome is not known yet. There is always hope!

The front of my neighbor's yard. We aren't in this fight alone!

The front of my neighbor’s yard. We aren’t in this fight alone!

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Rider to Neighbor – Ciclista a Vecino

by A. Grace Steig, video coordinator for the Western MA team

siga abajo para el Español

“¡Sí se puede!” we chanted at the end of our third day of trainings and planning alongside members of Neighbor to Neighbor. We used the collective chant to wrap up a day in which we had jointly planned an action for the Holyoke Farmers’ Market. From our first introduction to the organization, it was clear that it would be a collaborative—and bilingual—experience. Climate Summer riders had an orientation led by Lena Entin, in which we learned from members about the organization’s roots; Stephen included some information about their origins and the work they’ve been doing in his blog post of a couple days ago.

Climate Summer riders and Neighbor to Neighbr members in Holyoke.

Climate Summer riders and Neighbor to Neighbor members in Holyoke.

On the second day, the power of our joint efforts became clear as Ben W. led a training session on social media in Spanish. We split up to work as pairs, and I had the tremendous joy of working with Vilma Vazquez as we discovered meme-making together. At times I would have felt the software to be maddening (Where is the colorful box tool? Why is resizing so hard?) if it hadn’t been for Vilma’s positive attitude.

This is me and Velma. The paper behind us counts N2N's recent growth.

This is me and Velma. The paper behind us counts N2N’s recent growth.

The following day, Carlos Rodriguez led a door-to-door training session that members of other community groups participated in. Climate Summer team #WestMass was grateful to be present as we shared stories of door-to-door done well (and sometimes humorously gone awry) in Holyoke and, for the Riders, in our schools and our own hometowns. Neighbor to Neighbor has been tremendously successful using outreach that engages folks in the struggles that affect them; Rosa Gonzalez wrote on our blog about her experience getting involved with N2N.

Our farmers’ market action planning was shared by Climate Summer and N2N partners; at the market itself, we showed off our skit starring Carlos as the Mt. Tom coal plant executive successfully pressured by Vilma and Rosa as N2N members to provide clean-up work for Georgette, Dineen, and Ben (acting as former coal plant employees). We also pioneered a game in which schoolchildren at the market swept coal pollution out of a paper “Connecticut River” and saved fish.

holyoke_game

Ben W leading the river clean-up game in Holyoke.

I felt the power of collective action as I had the honor through my role as video coordinator—along with Stephen’s help—of taking footage of our work together, as well as interviewing seven people involved with N2N in Holyoke, getting to listen to their stories and the amazing work they have done. The footage I collected, after I finish my sifting and editing, will be part of a video I am making with N2N. I am very excited for this video and hope to tell you soon that it is complete. Listening to them, I am intensely impressed by their collective work organizing for a higher minimum wage and getting the Mt Tom coal plant closed down once and for all; and I have no doubt that they will be successful in their campaigns to have the site cleaned and good jobs provided for the plant’s workers as well as the many residents of Holyoke who need work. Indeed, we can.


por A. Grace Steig, coordinadora del video para el grupo de Mass. del Oeste

“¡Sí se puede!” llamamos al fin de nuestra tercer día de los entrenamientos y la planificación juntos con miembros de Vecino a Vecino (N2N). La llamada colectiva sirvió en terminar un día en lo cuál habíamos planeado juntos una acción para el mercado de fincas de Holyoke. Sin embargo, desde nuestra introducción a la organización, era claro que sería una experiencia colaborativa—y bilingüe. Ciclistas de Climate Summer tuvimos una orientación dirigida por Lena Entin, en lo cuál los miembros nos enseñaron las raíces de la organización; Stephen incluyó alguna información de su origen y el trabajo que hacián en su blog post hace un par de días.

Climate Summer riders and Neighbor to Neighbr members in Holyoke.

Ciclistas de Climate Summer y miembros de Vecino a Vecino en Holyoke.

El segundo día, el poder de nuestros esfuerzos juntos se puso claro cuando Ben W. dirigió una sesión de entrenamiento sobre medios de comunicacion social en Español. Nos partimos para trabajar como pares, y tuve la alegría treménda de trabajar con Vilma Vazquez mientras nos descubrimos como hacer memes juntos. A veces yo habría sentido el software ser exasperante (¿Dónde está la herramienta de la caja colorosa?¿Por qué es tan difícil cambiar el tamaño?) si no fuera tan positiva la actitud de Vilma.

This is me and Velma. The paper behind us counts N2N's recent growth.

Yo y Velma. El papel detrás de nosotros cuenta el recién crecimiento de N2N.

El día siguiente, Carlos Rodriguez dirigió una sesión de entrenamiento de door-to-door en que miembros otros grupos de la comunidad participaron. Climate Summer team #WestMass agradecemos estar presente mientras compartimos cuentos de door-to-door bien hecho (y a veces cómicos fracasos) en Holyoke y, para los ciclistas, en nuestras universidades y pueblos. Vecino a Vecino ha tenido mucho éxito involucrando la gente en las luchas que les afectan; Rosa Gonzalez escribió para nuestro blog de su experiencia involucrándose con N2N.

Nuestra planificación de la acción para el mercado de fincas fue compartida por parejas de Climate Summer y Vecino a Vecino; en el mercado, demostramos nuestro teatrillo realizado por Carlos en el papel de ejecutivo de la planta de carbón Mt. Tom exitosamente apresurado por Vilma y Rosa como miembros de N2N a dar trabajo de limpieza a Georgette, Dineen, y Ben (en los papeles de empleados pasados de la planta de carbón). También inventamos un juego en lo cual los niños visitando al mercado barrieron pollucion a fuera de “Rio de Connecticut” hecho de papel y salvaron los peces.

holyoke_game

Ben W organiza el juego de limpiar el rio en Holyoke.

Sentí el poder de acción colectiva mientras tuve el honor a traves de mi papel como coordinador de video—con la ayuda de Stephen—de agrabar videos de nuestro trabajo juntos, además de entrevistar a siete personas involucradas con N2N, escuchando a sus cuentos y el trabajo maravilloso que han hecho. el metraje del cine que coleccioné después de cribar y editar, será parte de un video que estoy haciendo con la organización. Estoy emocionada por el video y espero avisarle pronto que esté completo. Escuchando a ellos, estoy intensamente impresionada por su trabajo colectivo organizando para un salario mínimo más alto y alcanzando la clausura de la planta de carbón Mt. Tom; y no tengo duda que van a tener éxito en sus campañas a limpiar el sitio y tener buenos trabajos para los obreros de la planta, además de los numerosos residentes de Holyoke que necesitan trabajo. De verdad, se puede.

 

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We’re not the Biker Girls

Posted on behalf of Sophie Sokolov, Social Media Coordinator for the North Shore Team

“Slut!” a pair of boys yelled out of a red sports car. I think it goes without saying that this is inappropriate and offensive, but what frustrates me even more was my initial reaction: I’m not even wearing anything revealing.  Yes, the two men who decided to yell slurs at me are rude, misogynistic and just plain dumb, but I’m pretty troubled that my first thought was not anger at the men for thinking they had a right to judge my worth by my appearance, but rather that their judgment itself was incorrect. This train of thought implies that had I been wearing something other than knee-length pants and a black shirt, their response would have been acceptable. I know this isn’t true, and I actually spend a lot of time thinking about and analyzing dynamics like this, but in the moment, it wasn’t my knowledge or my actual beliefs that took hold, but rather a cultural sentiment that I actively disagree with.  We are socialized to expect certain things from men and women, and it’s really hard to disengage from those cultural norms.

Abbie and Ariel looking strong and ready to go on their bikes.

Abbie and Ariel looking strong and ready to go on their bikes.

This summer the expectations of women are not always this explicit. It’s the man at a coffee shop who tells me to stop being so emotional about climate change- that we need to take a more objective view, it’s the folks at church who ask if we ride in skirts, or who cannot say we are smart, driven and inspiring without also remarking on our beauty- who call us the biker girls, it’s the assumption that because we are women we are idealistic, cute and ultimately weak. By qualifying each compliment of our work with a comment on our physical appearance, it suggests that as women our worth is intrinsically tied to our attractiveness. By characterizing us as innocent, sweet girls, it implies that we are not to be taken seriously.

I don’t hold any anger against any of the individuals who express these sentiments, at the men who automatically take on paternal roles when they see a group of five young women. None of these people are individually at fault because it is a culture we all participate in, myself included.  We are socialized to not take women as seriously, to expect them to step back rather than speak up, to take up very little space. We must actively work to catch ourselves when we do enforce these gender norms.

This movement can be really discouraging for a lot of reasons, constantly wondering if the work we are doing will have any impact on the world at large, but it’s a lot harder to remain hopeful and strong when you’re constantly being told that you are naïve and weak. A lot of the time it’s unclear if people don’t take us seriously because we’re women, because we’re young, or perhaps just because we actually are naïve. I wonder if the teams with men on them are treated any differently. On a good day, I’m able to accept the fact that these people actually do believe in us, and have simply internalized certain attitudes about what to expect from women, but on a bad day, I begin to doubt myself, to wonder if these reactions are really part of the system, or if it’s because I come across as naïve and overly emotional. I internalize these judgments and then unconsciously perpetuate the system by constantly second-guessing myself.

Working with all women this summer is a very new experience for me. Here I am with two of my teammates, Kelly and Shreya.

Working with all women this summer is a very new experience for me. Here I am with two of my teammates, Kelly and Shreya.

Because this is a female-dominated movement, it is crucial that we begin to break down these assumptions of women both internally and externally to harness our power.  Many “female” characteristics are actually crucial to our work, such as being emotional. We are dealing with deeply painful realities, and it is through our honest emotions that we can connect with people, but when we see these attitudes as women’s attitudes rather than simply human, we devalue them. It is not enough to simply stop the construction of all new fossil fuel projects if while we we do so we ignore all other forms of oppression.  In the process of fighting climate change, our movement must build the kinds of relationships and systems that we wish to see in the future.

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But Wait – There’s More!

by Ben Linthicum, Team Leader for the Western MA team

Ben Clark, of the Clarkdale fruit farm in rural Ashfield, Massachusetts, points to a line of gently swaying orange balloons dotting across an orchard and tells me that’s where they’re trying to put the pipeline. Kinder Morgan is going to cut a 100 ft swath through the whole farm, resulting in an immediate loss of 600 fruit trees. It would cripple their farm.

 Tom and Ben Clark standing in front of their orchard.

Tom and Ben Clark standing in front of their orchard.

Me at the fruit orchard, before the rally started. The fruit trees can be seen behind me.

Me at the fruit orchard, before the rally started. The fruit trees can be seen behind me.

Kinder Morgan’s proposed “Northeast Energy Direct” of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline system would transport fracked natural gas across the state of Massachusetts to export terminals on the east coast of North America.

Ben Clark’s story is but one in thousands of those who will be affected by the pipeline. One county over in Cummington, Polly – another resident whose yard the proposed pipeline would go through – showed me her lush, sprouting vegetable garden. She tells me if that pipeline goes in, she won’t be able to keep her garden. She wouldn’t want her children and grandchildren eating vegetables out of there that could absorb toxins leaked from the pipe. She is concerned about endocrine disruptors contained in the fracked gas like naphthalene, cumene, diethanolamine, and others. Endocrine disruptors adversely affect the body’s developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune systems.

We walked with Polly along the proposed pipeline route through her property. An access road has already been constructed by the company surveying for Kinder Morgan.

We walked with Polly along the proposed pipeline route through her property. An access road has already been constructed by the company surveying for Kinder Morgan. The trees to our right will be cut down if the pipeline is constructed.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to have the pipeline going through your yard in order to be impacted by it. The New England governors have proposed a tariff on all electrical ratepayers’ bills to pay for the pipeline’s construction.

In what feels like a cruel infomercial – But wait! There’s MORE! – according to Kinder Morgan’s internal documents, the pipeline will transport gas to export terminals in order to be sold on international markets where the cost of gas is higher. Once exposed to international markets, the domestic price of natural gas will also increase. New England will be paying more to pay more.

But wait – there’s more! Kinder Morgan claims the natural gas would be used to help Massachusetts fill an alleged shortfall in natural gas electrical generation. There is no shortage of gas. Even during the recent polar vortex last winter, there was enough gas for heating, cooking, electric generation, and selling to New York State while still maintaining 9044 megawatts of excess energy. Should this pipeline be built, we will be paying more, to pay more, for something we don’t need.

Polly's daughter, Liane, and her granddaughters.

Polly’s daughter, Liane, and her granddaughters.

Here I am walking the tree line in Polly's yard.

Here I am walking the tree line in Polly’s yard.

Back on Polly’s property, she guided me through the peaceful pine grove that would be cut down if the pipeline was constructed. She tells me if it comes to it, she’ll cut down these trees by herself and have solar panels put in so that the company will have to move them or go around them. She continues by saying, “It’s not just about my land being bulldozed. It’s about the big picture – so my grand-kids can enjoy it.”

Posted in 2014, Team Massachusetts, Team Western Massachusetts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating Connections, or How Lord of the Rings Got US Through Our Day

Posted on behalf of Alissa Zimmer, Community Outreach Coordinator, Team For the MASSes.

As one can probably tell from my team’s previous blog posts, our time in Brockton was very…dynamic. At various points in our stay we felt confused, loved, powerful, frustrated, in awe, excited, willing, exhausted, uncertain, and so much more. We spent

For the MASSes waiting on the top of one of the many Mount Dooms we encountered.

For the MASSes waiting on the top of one of the many Mount Dooms we encountered.

time engaging the political community, interacting with our community partners and church partners, connecting with the media, and playing Lord of the Rings Monopoly. In fact, we played so much Lord of the Rings Monopoly that by the time we left Brockton, even those among us who had never seen the movies nor read the books could call themselves experts.

We were sad to have to leave the board game behind, but it was time to head to Rhode Island. Before hitting the road, I had no idea that Rhode Island would be hilly- and when I say hilly, I mean mountainous. After turning onto School St. in Albion,we crane our necks and look up at the steep, windy, neverending hill in front of us. At the top of her lungs, Hallie shouts, “MOUNT DOOM!” in reference to a location in Lord of the Rings and the most valuable property on the Monopoly board. Climbing up that Mount Doom was difficult to say the least. Hallie and I were pulling the trailers and we barely made it up past the first curve in the road before we had to get off our bikes and walk.  One point the trailer even started rolling backward, and I with it. When I signed up for this program the last muscles I expected to be sore were my biceps. Even though our trailerless compatriots were also struggling and had to walk their bikes up, they cheered Shadowfax and Bill the Pony (two horses from Lord of the Rings) on – Shadowfax being Hallie, and myself Bill the Pony- and ran down the hill to give us the extra oomph we needed. We eventually made it to the top of Windy Doom, a name change made to differentiate this king of hills from any other. There were many other Mount Dooms on our way to our church; it seems that Rhode Island only has uphills, and the few times we encountered a downhill, they were so steep.  They were almost terrifying to ride down and there was always a red light waiting for you at the bottom. When we reached our destination, we rolled off our bikes and just laid in the grass, only

For the MASSes taking a break on their way up the Windy Doom.

For the MASSes taking a break on their way up the Windy Doom.

to find out we went to the wrong church. We still had 11 uphill miles to go to reach Slatersville Congregational- and that 11 mile trip concluded with another Mount Doom. We came up this huge hill, had to make a really acute, almost U-turn halfway through, only for a firetruck blasting its sirens to come up behind us as we attempt to make that turn forcing us to stop and have to start again at an angle unfit for a bicycle.

Our transition from Brockton to Burrillville in a psychological and strategic sense was just as difficult as our physical transition. We had to shift gears completely upon our arrival here. Brockton is urban, Burrillville is rural; Brockton is fighting a proposed power plant, Burrillville is fighting an already existing piece of infrastructure; Brockton has been successfully fighting for over eight years, Burrillville started this fight about three months ago (the name for the organization, BASE, was officially chosen approximately two days ago); the demographics are different, and the list just goes on and on. We had to not only do days worth of

After a day of canvasing, For the MASSes, Kathy, and her friends Tom and Mary Ann enjoyed some pizza at Serio's.

After a day of canvasing, For the MASSes, Kathy, and her friends Tom and Mary Ann enjoyed some pizza at Serio’s.

research all over again because of our shift to a different project, but our job description was completely rewritten. Creating the connections between places that feel so different in nature reminded me a lot like an impending Mount Doom in the beginning. I felt stuck and frustrated for all of ten minutes, until Kathy, our community partner, told me a story, followed by another story, followed by another story. Those stories ranged from her relationship to the compressor station to the deer that she calls her own. Throughout that night I saw nothing but passion in her eyes and body language and voice. I recognized that passion from somewhere- from Brockton.

In that moment, I no longer felt scared and dis-empowered. In fact, my short time in Burrillville has been the most powerful I’ve ever felt. The relationship and comfort between my team and Kathy is breathtaking and we’ve been learning so much from each other. Together, we’ve helped create the groundwork for an organization that’s only just beginning and has a bright future filled with more than three person meetings. That’s a future that many of us hope to continue to be involved with even beyond Climate Summer. For many of us, Rhode Island is just a short commuter rail ride away during the fall, and after taking on Windy Doom, we could even handle a bike ride down here!

When we hear the phrase Mount Doom travel down our bicycle formation, we know it’s a forewarning of pain and suffering up ahead, we can’t help but smile and think that if Frodo can do it, we can too.

Posted in 2014, Team For the MASSes, Team Massachusetts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bring It

Written by Nicholas Jansen, Social Media Coordinator, Team East

One of the most common questions I have been asked this summer is, “What do you like best about Climate Summer?” Some people would guess the bike rides, the independence, the meaningful work or even just getting into really great shape. While all of those components provide their own unique flavor to the unpredictable experience of working with Climate Summer, hands-down, the number one thing I like about Climate Summer and this movement is how people come together.

pool

Rachel and Zalo in paradise after a long bike ride!

Every town we’ve been in so far, I am amazed and surprised time and time again by the generosity and gratitude people show towards us riders. Upon entering a town, we get countless offers of food, places to stay, priceless shower opportunities and the frequent “give us a call if you need anything.” These offers often come before we have even done anything! Then when we actually start to do something, well that is when the magic starts to happen.

I have endless examples of this but for both my time’s sake and your’s, I’m just going to give one: Ashburnham, the last town we were in. Upon arriving at the picture perfect home of Lindsey and Josh Sundberg, we were offered their entire barn and a chance to dip in their swimming pool which looked like an oasis after our long ride. Their willingness to help us in any way possible was endless while they were both working, taking care of their two little bundles of energy – Heidi who is 3 and Evelyn who is 5 – all the while doing work to oppose the pipeline which would affect their homestead. Then there was Pat Stewart who gave us a seemingly endless supply of homemade goat cheese and soap (yes, soap made from goat milk) while sharing her powerful story of resistance against the pipeline. There were also multiple offers for food, dips in lakes and handshakes of thanks from other members of the community throughout our stay.

ashburnham event

Team East presenting at the Pipeline Awareness Event in Ashburnham

On the last day we were there, we had our event – a Pipeline Awareness Gathering. In less than 48 hours of tabling, emailing and door-to-dooring, we had an incredible turnout of about 20 people that packed the haystack seats in the back of the Sundberg barn. The people that showed up were both young and old; new to town and 3rd generation folks; people who have been involved since day one and people just finding out what this Kinder Morgan Pipeline is really all about. We opened the event with an exercise to get everyone there to find commonalities. The exercise ends with everyone coming together and having to find one commonality; what did they find? They all oppose the pipeline!

That is what I love about this movement. People that come from different backgrounds, decades, religions and even political parties (no this isn’t voodoo magic) come together to fight for what they do have in common: the need to save their lands, their families, their way of life. I’ve seen people that told us they refuse to work together, end up working together to solve this issue. I’ve seen a farmer, caked in dirt after a long day in the fields, having a meaningful conversation with a lady still in her business suit, waiting to go home to see her kids. And I’ve seen a girl that grew up in sunny Maui, Hawii; a young man from the streets of Miami, Florida; a girl from the suburbs of Dallas, Texas; a guy from the cornfields of Rives Junction, Michigan, and a young lady from the lush green Arden Hills, Minnesotta devote their entire summers to fight for a cause that flows through their veins with every beat of their hearts.

That is what this movement, this proposed pipeline is doing to people. In a day and age when the community has weakened and individuals strive to get on top, this is nothing short of magic. Kinder Morgan believes they can build this pipeline by being sly, winning us over individually, taking our lands bit by bit. Well I’m here to say that just isn’t going to happen. In my short time in working with communities so far this summer, I’ve seen the power and passion that is emerging from these communities. Twenty-one towns have already passed resolutions opposing the pipeline with the town we are in now, Montague, being the latest with the resolution being passed this past Monday. Kinder Morgan believes they can cheat the system and take our land while leaving us powerless by gaining imminent domain. I say let them try. We won’t stop and say we gave it the good ol’ college try. These communities will show Kinder Morgan and the rest of the country that Massachusetts and New Englanders don’t go down without a fight. So I just have one more thing to say to Kinder Morgan.

Bring it.

bring it

Team East in defiance

Posted in 2014, Team East, Team Massachusetts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment