The Real Path Toward a Just and Stable Future

Posted by: Katie

Throughout our journey, the Western Mass team has been inspired  by every town and city that we have visited. However, there is something special about the city of Springfield that has really struck me.

On our first full day here, we were incredibly lucky to get one of the best introductions to the city that we ever could have. First thing in the morning, we stopped by the offices of Arise for Social Justice, and talked with six bold community organizers about our journey. However, the people at Arise were not new to activism—they dedicated every day sticking up for the most disadvantaged people in all of Springfield by advocating for tenants’ rights, building community, and fighting the planned biomass plant in the area.

Posters at Arise for Social Justice

Our new friends at Arise eventually took us over to meet the people working at Gardening the Community (GtC), or as I like to call them, the coolest group of kids I’ve met in a long time. GtC is a youth-powered organization that runs a handful of organic urban gardens in Springfield. The kids range from ages 7 to 21 and the food that they produce is biked (woo!) to local markets where it is sold.

Getting ready to lead the "It's Hot In Here" chant with GtC

After talking with everyone at GtC, we participated in a lunchtime bike ride with the Springfield Institute—a think tank that is helping important social actors in Springfield (including grassroots organizations and local government) work to eliminate many of the city’s challenges. Aaron and Marcos from the institute took us on a tour of one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, very poignantly highlighting some of the many social inequalities that exist within the city. By two o’clock in the afternoon on our first day in Springfield, I felt more inspired and empowered than I had in the first six weeks of the program.

The Springfield Institute interviewed us for its blog:

At one point during our morning, something about my outlook on climate change shifted—the scope of the problems and solutions broadened. It may have been after talking to Dave at Arise about youth culture in the projects or while touring the elementary school built underneath an I-90 overpass, but I realized the solutions to climate change and the solutions to poverty and inequality are inextricably linked. Oftentimes, when discussing solutions to climate change with people—whether it be neighbors, professors, or acquaintances—I’ve often found the conversation turns into one about how long they’ve had solar panels for or how others just don’t seem to understand that why people aren’t weatherizing their homes. And although these issues are very important to solving the climate crisis, these conversations don’t always connect with the deeper roots of our problems.

A public school in Springfield, directly underneath I-90

However, in Springfield, the conversation was radically different. In many cases, it did not seem to have to do with climate change at all. It all had to do with inequality, powerlessness, poverty, and injustice. To me, however, these two conversations are one in the same. We live in a society where the pursuit of material possession and monetary growth (both on an individual and national level) is the single most important gauge of ‘success’. This system is the same that gobbles up fossil fuels and other material resources at suicidal rates and marginalizes all those who cannot keep up with the rat race. It is the same system that allows thousands of cars and 18-wheelers to speed unknowingly over Springfield’s poorest students every day. In the end, I believe that it is this system that needs to change.

I feel so lucky to have met everyone that I did on my first full day in Springfield. Although the challenges that we face as a society are great, people like those at Arise for Social Justice, Gardening the Community, and the Springfield Institute give me hope for the future. They are actively working within their community to not only address the more obviously ‘environmental’ causes climate change, but the social ones as well. They are truly working to make our world more Just and Stable.

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5 Responses to The Real Path Toward a Just and Stable Future

  1. Aron Goldman says:

    Great to have you guys! And check out this post for more images of social/environmental injustice in Springfield, and a Van Jones video that captures your points beautifully:

  2. Michelle Lori says:

    You’ve hit upon the deep truth about all work for sustainability.It is at its heart about justice for all. I’m so proud of all of you!

    • Katie says:

      Thank you so much! We can’t treat the environment with respect unless we start treating our fellow human beings with respect as well.

  3. jqh4 says:

    Wow! It’s great to see you guys have learned so much in Springfield, a place so close to home! Can’t wait to hear more about it!!

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