“Honk if you love clean air,” instructed the sign raised by Morgan Foster, 22, of Newburyport, MA.
Many beeps resounded from the cars passing by the recent Wheaton College graduate’s rallying spot at North Church in Portsmouth, NH on Saturday August 4, indicating that clean air legislation is something the public supports conserving.
But Senator Scott Brown chose to vote against the Clean Air Act this past April, in obedience to the interests of the fossil fuel industry investors who contributed large sums to his campaign.
Such choices, common in Washington, do not intelligently address the climate change crisis, critics argue. Nor do they improve the symptoms –– “adult and pediatric asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other respiratory and pulmonary diseases” –– of citizens who reside downwind of coal plants like Schiller Station in Portsmouth and Mount Tom Coal Plant in Holyoke, MA.
So stakeholders have begun to take action, including many student youths.
For example, Brandeis senior and Occupy Boston activist Dorian Williams nonviolently resisted the toxic Hobet 45 coal mine in West Virginia July 28. Police arrested she and nineteen others as the activists endured harassment and threats from local critics and the cops themselves.
On July 29 in Burlington, VT, demonstrators donned black colors and staged a “human oil spill” at the Conference of New England Governors and Canadian Premiers to protest the Trailbreaker Pipeline, which environmentalists say portends disaster for the continent’s ecosystems. Acclaimed teacher Bill Mckibben of 350.org spoke at a rally, as did activists from the Quebec student organization CLASSE. Police eventually shot “non-lethal” bullets and injured several.
Foster, for her part, spent the seven weeks prior to the Portsmouth rally journeying by bicycle across the Granite State. She and four other young women traversed Concord, Hanover, and the Great Lakes as part of the Better Future Project’s Climate Summer initiative. They met local community leaders who are already helping transform the economy toward sustainability. The goal was to “learn from, support, and connect with” these leaders and then work with, inspire, and educate the community-at-large, Foster explained.
Fellow cyclist Hillary Bernhardt expressed admiration for the Occupy Movement. The 18-year-old Sarah Lawrence College sophomore participated in nonviolent civil disobedience on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, 2011. Police arrested her and over 700 others.
The Better Future Project’s Climate Summer teams concluded similarly organized travels in Holyoke, Mass., Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Portland, ME on August 4 as well. One Connecticut sign encouraged readers to help “Move communities beyond deadly energy (coal oil & natural gas) while communicating the need for a rapid and responsible transition to healthy, safe, just energy for all.”
To coordinate with the August 4 conclusion of the Climate Summer program, newly launched 350 Massachusetts –– also facilitated by the Better Future Project –– organized an August 4 day of action for the Boston area too.
Dubbed “Spare Change for Big Oil,” these satirical protests conceived by activist Susan Labandibar made light of the fact that taxpayers’ money enormously subsidizes the violent fossil fuel industry, rather than the urgently needed transformation to a sustainable economy. Law student Rebecca Fox and friends collected spare change at Boston’s Circle the City Festival at Sam Adam’s Park Stage, while others did likewise in Brookline, Newton, Somerville, Savoy, Waltham, as well as outside Cambridge’s Museum of Science. Many posed for photos holding a sign that read, “Dear representatives, STOP donating my tax dollars to coal, oil, and natural gas!” In Dewey Square, activists held a Bake Sale for the Fossil Fuel Industries. Arlington citizens helped quench thirst as they demonstrated, via a ‘Spare Change for Big Oil’ Lemonade Stand.
In the afternoon at Harvard Sq., citizens constructed an artistic rendering of a mini-pipeline and performed a “Die-in” protest to communicate to Cambridge onlookers the grave prospects posed by the Trailbreaker Pipeline.
To keep informed, get involved with future planning, and help build the movement, visit 350.org and 350ma.org.