Organizing is A Rollercoaster Ride

Posted on behalf of Stephen O’Hanlon, Public Narrative Coordinator for the Western MA team

After getting caught in a thunderstorm on our way from Holyoke, we received a warm welcome at the Amherst Episcopal Church on the afternoon of July 3rd. At our first stop in Holyoke, our schedule was largely planned for us. That meant that Amherst was the first town where we had to plan our own events. Over the holiday weekend, we scrambled to plan, find space for, and then publicize our event: a presentation and discussion about Kinder Morgan’s proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline expansion project and its connection with fracking and climate change.

Key learning: the real world operates on a much longer timeframe than college campuses, which is where most of us have organizing backgrounds, and we should have planned and publicized our event sooner. However, we were lucky enough to meet Susan Rice and Anne Perkins from the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst after two of us attended their Sunday Service. Even at the last minute, Susan helped us secure meeting space at the church and Anne offered to host the event with us.

Dineen and I working to plan the event and do some outreach.

Dineen and I working to plan the event and do some outreach.

In the days leading up to our event (even including the day before), we seriously considered cancelling it. We felt that we hadn’t had enough time to do adequate outreach and that the large amounts of time that we would need to put into fine tuning the content and doing further outreach wouldn’t be worth it if no one came. We felt that we were going to waste Anne’s time, or that of Kim and Tim of Climate Action Now, whom we had invited to talk about their work. We decided to have the meeting and after frantically finishing our presentation plan, we set out down Pleasant Street, fully expecting only one to attend.

Anne greeted us upon our arrival and as we set up the room, we decided to put out only a few chairs. Better to add more rather than take them away, we thought? My frustration and discouragement fused into elation as people trickled into the room; we added chairs until we had over 20 out. Although that might not seem like much, it well exceeded our expectations. We had great discussions about what we need to do to mitigate climate change and, more specifically, what role people in Amherst, which is not directly threatened by Kinder Morgan’s proposed fracked natural gas pipeline, could take to help stop it.

Lots of people came to our event!

Lots of people came to our event!

The rollercoaster of emotions that I experienced before, during, and after our event is representative of those that I’ve experienced throughout Climate Summer and is probably similar to those most organizers experience. Especially when we are facing powerful fossil fuel corporations like Kinder Morgan and are trying to create systematic change, it is easy to feel dis-empowered, depressed, and hopeless, similar to how I felt when I thought our meeting would be a failure.

I spoke at the event about Climate Summer.

I spoke at the event about Climate Summer.

With work to build a grassroots movement, it can take a really, really long time for us to see the impact of our work. It isn’t like our meeting where we put mere hours of preparation into a presentation and outreach and were able to see the results within a few days; rather, the stakes are much higher. Organizing can mean pouring your life into a campaign in the face of uncertainty for years without seeing the results.



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The Problem with a Moral High Ground

Posted on behalf of Dineen O’Rourke, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Western MA team

I’ve been spending my entire summer doing climate organizing work. I’m traveling exclusively by bicycle and living my values by not spending money on anything other than the pure necessities. I’m working to stop the Tennessee Gas pipeline that’s threatening to take land and community away from thousands of people in Massachusetts. I’m trying to encourage action to stop our impending climate crisis.

So what?

I’m not uncommon. I’m one of 151 who have done this program before me, one of hundreds upon hundreds working to stop this pipeline, and one of millions working for a better world in a time of global climate warming.

Here I am shucking corn at the home of our community partners through whose property Kinder Morgan's NED pipeline is proposed.

Here I am shucking corn at the home of one of our community partners, Polly, through whose property Kinder Morgan’s NED pipeline is proposed.

Yet lately I hear comments such as “Oh, you’re much better than I am. I’m just staying at home this summer.” Or “You’re going to change the world… so proud of you!” Or “I wish I was young enough/old enough/had your willpower/had the energy … [insert here any debilitating reasoning]”

I’m grateful for what I know is intended to be kind words of encouragement – that emotional support is an important factor in keeping people motivated and in no way do I want to undermine that. Yet, on a deeper level, these words and ideas can unintentionally place people on a pedestal that I believe shouldn’t exist.

Even in this time of urgency and climate crisis, for me being a climate organizer does not equate to any sense of moral purity. This sense is deeply exclusive and to my beliefs, incorrect. It doesn’t allow for the global-sized scale of the movement that we need and creates a false sense of heroism among people who are simply acting on their beliefs. By placing those who act on their beliefs on a pedestal, we’re making it seem like those people are rare, even though they are really all around us.

Climate change is a global, systemic issue that requires globally-scaled action. If our goal is an all-inclusive and globally-sized movement, we won’t get there with pedestals that glorify certain people and types of organizing over others and thus exclude others from getting deeply involved.

My teammates Stephen and Ben and I plan a public narrative (storytelling) training for community organizers fighting against natural gas infrastructure.

My teammates Stephen and Ben and I plan a public narrative (storytelling) training for community organizers fighting against natural gas infrastructure.

If people are inspired by the work we are doing, my hope is that they will join us in some way, whatever way makes sense for them, rather than only praising us.

It’s important to realize that not everybody is in a position to do climate organizing. It’s important to realize that this work is not for everyone; some are called to do other, also crucial tasks. It’s also important to realize that climate change is a problem like no other; a global problem on a scale never experienced nor fathomed – thus requiring a large, global movement. In no way am I saying we should all be biking around and working on climate campaigns. Not at all. But we do need more people to be active in the movement that’s arising around the world – in whatever way is comfortable, realistic, and personally useful and empowering for them.

This work is not defined by age, intelligence, or physical strength. It’s defined by ambition and a deep determination to create change. I truly believe that if certain emotions are unearthed, that drive for change will be found within anyone.

You’re all my heroes too – everyone. Each person has a spark inside of them that has a great amount of potential. Let’s kick that pedestal out of the picture; no one person is going to do this alone – that’s the true beauty of community and people power.

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On Beans and Hearts

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

Last night, we burned chickpeas. They were boiling in a pot of water, completely submerged, but somehow, they burned. I’m not sure it’s ever happened before in the history of chickpeas. We tried to grind them up into hummus anyway, but they were burnt and undercooked, so our hummus was essentially inedible. For the first time, we threw away some of our food. Last week, we soaked the chickpeas too long and they fermented, but we made hummus anyway and farted for the next few days. Another time, we soaked the chickpeas and boiled them (almost) long enough, but didn’t have enough time to spice them, so our hummus was, again, sub-par. I think we’ve tried to make hummus at least 5 times, but apart from maybe once, it’s been less-than-successful. Sometimes, it feels like, as a team, we are largely incompetent. Like when we forget to soak the beans- again. Or when it takes us an hour to get out the door in the morning, or when Ariel’s tube popped out of her tire and got caught in her bike chain (another first in history I believe).

A miraculous soup with well cooked beans!

A miraculous soup with well cooked beans!

Or when we think about the scale of climate change. It’s really easy to feel useless when thinking about the global environmental destruction and mass human suffering that come with climate change. It is much bigger than anything I’ve ever had to think about before. It’s frankly terrifying.

It’s really easy to get frustrated when we can’t even boil beans correctly. How can we stop the most powerful industry in the history of the world if we don’t have the foresight to soak beaks the night before? Sometime it feels like every waking moment this summer is spent fighting to mitigate climate change, and so every little failure can feel gigantic, or every act that isn’t wholly strategic can feel worthless.

In reality, these small acts, like building sandcastles and tabling farmers markets, aren’t insignificant. This movement must be built of hundreds of smaller strategies, and maybe one will catch on and inspire others to join, or maybe it won’t, but the point is that we have to try everything. We can’t know what effect each act might have on someone else. Perhaps, listening to my poem will be the spark for someone, leading them to start getting involved, or maybe it will be one of a hundred little things on their path to joining the movement. I know I didn’t join because of one thing someone said to me, but rather because of hundred of conversations and articles and eventually an opportunity. We can try to be the most strategic we can, minimizing wasted time, but at the end of the day sometimes our chickpeas are burnt and raw, and sometimes they aren’t. We have to learn to be patient.

The team at a picnic with JD's fabulous hummus.

The team at a picnic with JD’s fabulous hummus.

I feel most hopeful meeting folks out in the communities because it reminds me that, with time, change can happen. Like Erin, who, after many years of different occupations, opened the New Harmony Farm, a more-than-organic community-oriented farm where she leads workshops on meditation and art-making. Or Conrad, who started a Transition community in Newburyport and leads twelve week trainings to give people skills and confidence to take action. Or JD, who brought delicious smooth tahini-filled hummus to our potluck. It was a revelation. We’ve been eating terrible hummus for the past four weeks. We asked him how he made it, and the key is to have patience. We need to let our beans cook much much longer to get them soft and supple to mash into a perfect spread. I’m pretty sure we can do it. The key is to not give up, and accept the fact that sometimes, things take longer than you’d expect.


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Adapting to Change

Posted on behalf of Rachel Eckles, Media Coordinator, Team East

My team and I had a very eventful day in Greenfield this past Saturday. While staying in Montague for a few days this past week, we decided to spend a day checking out Greenfield. We had a table at the farmer’s market where we got kids to make flowers to decorate our ugly pipeline prop and spoke with shoppers about the pipeline. We also joined in the bike parade and got to meet some really enthusiastic and concerned people from the area.

flowers not pipes

The flowers made by children to decorate our pipeline at the Greenfield Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

Later on, we went to the Stone Soup Café at All Souls Church where we met people with valuable stories and different opinions on the pipeline. I appreciated learning from the various perspectives and enjoyed the inclusive conversations they encouraged at the café. One man who I spoke with made a comment that there will never be a perfectly ideal way for us to get our energy without affecting someone. I believe this needs to be discussed more when we go around opposing projects like the Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline.

This issue crosses my mind frequently as I come across concerned residents who are hearing that the pipeline is proposed to come through their hometown for the first time. As I see the worry overcome their face, I wonder what they would think if Kinder Morgan was proposing to build a solar array, rather than a natural gas pipeline. Would they consider this progress or would it be just as frustrating to them as the pipeline is?

westminster FM

Nicholas and Jana talking about the pipeline with someone at the Westminster Farmer’s Market

For me, I am involved in this movement to stop the pipeline because I care about the lifestyles and ecosystems that would be greatly impacted by this pipeline but also because I want to prevent companies like Kinder Morgan from being allowed to lead us in such a direction that it prevents us from making the energy progress we must make. This pipeline would not be a temporary solution to New England’s energy capacity issue. This pipeline would be permanent. We would rely on this pipeline for easily another 50 years. As someone who is greatly concerned about climate change, I fear that by then, it will be far too late to be considering alternative energy. We cannot keep building fossil fuel infrastructure if we ever want to become as self-sustaining as countries like Germany and the Netherlands.

People working to make clean energy, efficiency, and conservation possible need to learn the ways to influence the behavior of society. That is what it will take to flip the switch off in homeowner’s unoccupied rooms and encourage stores with big parking lots to install solar panels to cover the parking spots. Technology is no longer the factor holding us back from progress; the factor now holding us back is our mindset. I believe that becoming more optimistic and willing to adapt would be the catapult for building the clean energy infrastructure that there is such potential for.

The man I met at lunch had a very good point. The truth is that yes, someone will be negatively affected by energy infrastructure no matter what. However, as my teammate Nicholas said, “we can be smart about this and strategically go forth in the process of switching over to clean energy with people’s lives at mind rather than a company’s profits.” I think the issue at hand is larger than this pipeline and larger than climate change. It is the social barrier to accepting change. Change is never perfect and the transition is not smooth but we’ve got to work with what we have, try different methods, seek better options, and learn to become more conscientious for the sake of a safer and healthier future for humanity.

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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

posted on behalf of 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 I had to say, but that was it. There was no direct follow up (mostly because we aren’t in each area 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.


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 our 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, 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!

Posted in 2014, Guest Blogger, Team East, Team Massachusetts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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.


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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