By: Susan Altman
Susan Altman is the coordinator of Green Medford, which seeks to educate and engage the Medford community to understand individual and community responsibility when making more sustainable energy choices. She was a wonderful host to MAssMovement during their week in Medford, and we could not have called our week a success without her help.
I never really thought of myself as an “organizer” except in the sense of putting my desk in order, which rarely happens. When I became involved with climate work in Medford, I thought of it as “getting involved,” and only over time did that morph into organizing events.
Organizing people here has been even harder. Medford has lots of family connections and neighborhoods but not such a strong sense of overall community. Green Medford began as Medford Climate Action Network in 2000. It has had a number of expansions and contractions over the decade, but the core group has never exceeded about a dozen.
It’s hard to know for sure why it’s hard to get traction for climate work here, although sometimes there is a reason. After the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks, quite a few people contacted us because they had begun to sense how very difficult it was going to be to get change to happen on a global scale, and they felt a need to “do something now.”
We also know that people are drawn to success. They want to be on the winning team. That’s why the Climate Summer team’s visit to Medford was important: it has brought a lot of new attention to climate issues and all the people who are working on them in their various ways, and it attracted new people to all the groups that participated
It also brought many of us in Green Medford and other organizations (the Medford Farmers Market, Medford BiPeds, the Medford-Brooks Estate Land Trust, the Medford Energy Committee, etc) to a new level of activity. The pressure of knowing that we were about to host a team of five students motivated us to think creatively and do more
than we otherwise would have done. The Bike Festival at the Farmers Market turned out to be the best day of the Market this summer, and some people say it was the best day ever. We could have put that event together without Climate Summer, but it took Climate Summer to get us to do it!
Climate Summer also is a great model of how much people actually can do to avoid fossil fuels. We loved being able to brag to people that our five students were not getting in a car or stepping on a train
for the whole summer, that they had biked from Brockton to Medford and were going to bike to Lawrence, and that their food budget was limited to about $5 per person per day. People who met the students admired their fortitude, but even more importantly, didn’t feel they were being preached to.
We can’t know yet what long-term effects the Climate Summer team will have on Medford. But personally, I have been inspired to spend more time on my bike and work harder to make Medford a better place for bikers. Thanks to Amira, Carrie, Lauren, Maureen, and Rayleigh for being such an inspiration—and so much fun to know!