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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