Marching for the Planet

On April 17 in Brattleboro there was a climate march. About 40 people walked 1.7 miles, then carpooled, rode bicycles, or walked back to the start. “Grownups need to use less fossil fuel and more alternative energy, and adults need to vote for leaders who will help fight climate change,” Grace Rosa, age 9, said in her speech at the rally in a grassy park at the Amtrak station on the bank of the Connecticut river, immediately after the march. Rosa lives with her parents in Dummerston, which borders Brattleboro.

Another speaker was Brattleboro resident Ellen Schwartz, a retired teacher and former board chair at the Vermont Workers' Center. She is still active with that group. “The people who are most hurt are the poor and working class across the globe,” Schwartz said in her speech. “People who have been dispossessed of their land in the global South due to colonial expansion and resource extraction. Indigenous tribes in the U.S.... And right here in Brattleboro, if you remember back to tropical storm Irene, public housing residents of Melrose Terrace were evacuated for months...”

The full text of Schwartz's speech is below.

Mary Lauren Fraser of Dummerston spoke at the rally. She is a 27 year old business owner. Her business is making – with her own hands – baskets, caskets, and urns, out of willow. Fraser also teaches people how to make these things. Cremation and traditional burial have major negative impacts on the environment, Fraser said. Information on alternatives that are better for nature is at her web site www.FraserBaskets.com.

According to a New York Times article about Biden's Earth Day promise to cut climate pollution in half by 2030, “It’s still an open question whether the Biden administration can adopt new policies that will actually achieve all of those goals."

Biden is pushing for billions in taxpayer dollars to go to nuclear power. Nuclear waste is the deadliest material on earth and stays that way for a million years. There's a nuclear waste dump in Vermont, three miles from Massachusetts and a stone's throw from New Hampshire. A group based near Greenfield is working to keep people safe from this radioactive waste. The group's web site is www.NukeBusters.org.

The below photos show the rally immediately following the April 17 Brattleboro climate march. To enlarge a photo, click on it, then scroll down and click “see full size image.” photos by Eesha Williams

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Two groups, the Mount Grace land trust and Mass Audubon, are working to protect 750 acres in Warwick, Massachusetts from development, Michael O'Connor told the Valley Post on April 16. He works for Mass Audubon. The groups need donations and volunteers. Warwick borders Northfield, which borders Gill, which borders Greenfield.

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Near Greenfield, on April 24 from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., there will be a "community walk through the beautiful French King gorge to the intake tunnels of the Canadian-owned Northfield mountain pumped storage project (NMPSP)... The walk will start on Dorsey Road in Erving... and proceed 1.5 miles along the Franklin county bikeway to the intake tunnels... (The organizers) invite all interested to walk or bike along this beautiful section of the river, while learning about the ecological dangers that make it so treacherous for fish and aquatic life. Along the route, energy experts and community leaders will discuss problems caused by the NMPSP, which literally reverses and sucks massive gulps of the Connecticut river backward and uphill to a reservoir for later release as re-generated, peak-priced electricity. Tens of millions of fish and aquatic animals are killed annually... Rain or shine. Children welcome. Bring masks, water and snacks, please no pets.” The organizers have a web site at www.traprock.org.

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An April 19 rally in Springfield, outside the offices of senators Warren and Markey, called on them to defend the First Amendment and support the release of Julian Assange. About 15 people were at the rally. One of the groups that sponsored the rally has a web site at www.MassPeaceAction.org.

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Here is the full text of Ellen Schwartz's speech, which she delivered at the rally immediately following the April 17 Brattleboro climate march:

We’re all here because we’re concerned about the ecological devastation of our planet. There certainly isn’t anything I need to say to this crowd about the nature of the problem facing us.

What I want to talk about is what it will take to solve the problem. For starters, we need to have an accurate diagnosis of the root causes of the problem. Just like when you go to the doctor, they can’t prescribe a cure without diagnosing the underlying cause of your illness.

When I look at the situation it’s clear to me that what is devastating our environment is that natural resources are treated as commodities. Simply put, they are extracted from the earth and human labor (as cheap as possible) is applied to them to create products that build wealth and power for some at the expense of others. Pollution is a necessary by-product of this process.

We just need to look around us to see at whose expense this is happening. The people who are most hurt are the poor and working class across the globe. People who have been dispossessed of their land in the global South due to colonial expansion and resource extraction. Indigenous tribes in the U.S. Communities in Appalachia ravaged by mountaintop removal. Residents of Flint Michigan who have had to fight for something as simple as clean water, when ⅔ of the earth’s surface is water. And right here in Brattleboro, if you remember back to Tropical Storm Irene, public housing residents of Melrose Terrace were evacuated for months--and what remains of Melrose is now being razed. At the same time, some residents of Glen Park lost their mobile homes for good. Housing for poor and working class people had been built in a flood plain, so these folks were most vulnerable when the storm hit. And this was not just in Brattleboro. Around the state people living in mobile home parks were disproportionately hard hit by the storm.

But back to root causes and solutions. A lot of solutions are being promoted for the ecological crisis. Many of them are false solutions, because they don’t target the root causes. For example, “green” products are marketed or we’re exhorted to make “greener” lifestyle choices. Now there’s nothing wrong with buying green or recycling (though much of the stuff we throw into the recycling bins doesn’t actually get recycled because there’s no market for it). Nothing wrong with composting if you are lucky enough to have a backyard, as I do. There’s nothing wrong with doing these things. I myself like seeing garden scraps turn into soil and spreading home compost on my garden. It gives me pleasure, but I don’t for a minute think it will solve the climate crisis, even if lots of other people do it in their own backyards. In the face of large-scale ecological devastation being driven by the rich and powerful corporate class, we can’t afford to delude ourselves that we can recycle, compost, or bicycle our way out of this crisis.

Quite honestly, I don’t think that any individual actions can solve the problem. The hyper-focus on individualism (sometimes called personal responsibility) is another way that the capitalist class distracts us from doing the one thing that has any chance of stopping this train wreck--which is organizing our class, especially the 140 million poor and low-wealth people in the US who have little to nothing to lose and everything to gain. I won’t stand here and say that that is easy. It isn’t--in large part because we have been divided against each other for hundreds of years, especially along lines of race and ethnicity. But I fervently believe that if we don’t unite across lines of division we don’t stand a chance. The ruling class will happily worsen the crisis through obvious means like fossil fuel extraction, and also by subtler and more confusing tactics like proposing “green solutions” that feel good but ultimately benefit themselves and their corporate interests, while shielding themselves from scrutiny by hiding behind the “green” banner.

The bottom line is that capitalism and the so-called free market can’t save the environment. We need to be clear eyed about that, and we need to organize to target the true culprits behind the devastation of the planet.

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