Fight for the Trees

The USA is losing 6,000 acres of open space to development every day. In Easthampton, Massachusetts, people are saying “enough.” Easthampton borders Northampton and Holyoke. “When you cut out a good section of forest and replace it with houses, you've disrupted the environment, period! Anything you do after that to mitigate the situation never makes up for the habitat you destroyed in the first place,” John Bator told the Valley Post in an email. He's president of an Easthampton group that has a web site at www.pctland.org. Details about the battle are below.

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In Springfield, six people were shot between March 21 and March 26. They all survived. The white male mayor said people should march to the homes of judges and state legislators to demand harsher prison sentences. No nation keeps such a high percentage of its people in prison as the USA. Europe's rate is a third of ours.

Tracye Whitfield is a member of the Springfield city council. She is African American. Whitfield told the Valley Post, “If we do not help them (gang members) and they don’t have any money and a place to live, you are going to revert to the life they had before. We can’t just arrest, arrest, arrest our way out of this.”

Tanisha Arena runs a Springfield group that has a web site at www.AriseSpringfield.org. She is African American. Arena told the Valley Post, “I know some of the folks involved and am familiar with their positions. I agree with city councilor Tracye Whitfield in that we cannot arrest our way out of this situation. Folks going to jail does not address the problem of gun violence. The violence is a symptom of the bigger problem of an under-resourced community. That creates the conditions for violence. If we are specifically talking about young people and their access to gangs and guns, well, let's give them something to do, to be a part of besides gangs. That again goes back to community resources, whether that is access to mental health services, school programs, extra curriculars like sports, music education, etc and perhaps getting bike parks set up and creating an environment and spaces for young people to flourish instead of turning to gangs for connection.”

Arena continued, “Even if the victims are gang members, that does not negate the need for a thorough investigation, nor does it negate the pain of the families. This also highlights much needed changes to our systems of policing as well as the judicial system. The bail system is linked to poverty and disproportionately affects black and brown folks, who also happen to be the ones experiencing this violence, which goes back to under-resourced communities and that creating the conditions ripe for violence. We could arrest everyone in the city, but if we do not address the root cause, the violence isn't going to go away. That means it's time to take a hard look at white supremacist, racist structures that exist. Redlining, gerrymandering, etc, especially since we are in a redistricting year after the census. All of these things are tied together.”

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In Easthampton, a developer wants to cut down a forest to build five single-family houses. Converting existing single-family houses to multi-family housing is an alternative. This makes public transportation more viable. Multi-family housing is cheaper to heat and air condition than single family houses.

Gerrit Stover volunteers for Bator's group. Stover told the Valley Post, "Any residential development inevitably disturbs and degrades natural habitat. In this case, the land in question and neighboring parcels constitute an intact block of forest; improvement of the road and clearing of the lots would irrevocably split that block.”

Stover continued, “At the very least it is unfortunate that this proposed development of one of the most sensitive and important parts of the Valley's natural landscape has gotten even this far. We think it is completely contrary to the wishes of the community and to the environmental policy of the commonwealth, so it is disappointing that the subdivision proposal was not rejected out of hand by the planning board and Department of Conservation and Recreation. That would have saved everyone, including the landowners, considerable time and money. Pascommuck hopes that any future efforts to encroach on Mount Tom will face the strictest scrutiny by the City and the Commonwealth. But if it is indeed the case that this current proposal is legal, then clearly local and state regulations and policies and their application need some serious revision to adequately protect this landmark.”

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