Holyoke, MA, Sunday, March 1: I am happy to say that more than 60 activists gathered at Mount Tom power station today. An earlier version of this post said 30, but Tina Clarke did a head-count and I trust her arithmetic more than I trust my own.
Kudos to David Starr of GREEN Northampton for helping turn us all out. At the same time demonstrations were happening at coal-burning stations in the eastern part of the state, sponsored (like ours) by the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities.
Our mission was to call on the station owners in particular, GDF Suez, and policymakers in general to stop burning coal. Tina Clarke (on the left of the picture) and Rev. Margaret Bullitt Jonas (right) addressed the crowd. A lone officer from the Holyoke Police Department watched us from his cruiser, parked at the entrance to the station. When I went up to introduce myself I noticed he was idling; I let it go, which was wimpy of me, I admit.
But at least the officer was there doing his duty, and that is more than I can say for the mainstream media. ABC News 40 had said they would show up to cover the event but didn't. Nor did any reporters from the two local newspapers, the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Springfield Repubican, make an appearance. Fortunately Francesca Rheannon from WMUA and a team from Valley Free Radio's Enviro Show were there to do what newspaper reporters used to do back in the day, i.e. find out what's going on and why.
Tina recalled the long struggle to force the station's former owners to reduce SOx and NOx emissions, and noted the current owner's tendency to take credit for simply complying with the law. Margaret, whose ministry centers on the struggle against global warming, described the abuse of the climate as a sin. Then, reminding us that all great movements sing, she led us in song.
Both Margaret and Tina talked about the impact of global warming on people we don't usually think of as our neighbors but who are on the front lines, paying an immediate and unjustifiable price for our consumption of fossil fuels.
For my part, I mentioned the significance of the number 350 and the fact that in the Christian calendar today, March 1, is Saint David's Day.*
Veteran peace and justice activist Frances Crowe announced a one-item wish list for her upcoming 90th birthday: everybody stay home and don't burn gas. On the subject of boosting public transportation, Leo Maley urged us to support the proposal to increase the state gas tax by 19 cents a gallon. Joan Grenier mentioned that Bill McKibben will be in South Hadley soon (details to follow) and Tom Neilson sang us a wonderful song that he wrote for the occasion.
We left Mount Tom at about 2:00 p.m., with snowflakes in the air and joy in our hearts. Several people driving by had honked in solidarity, and we had borne witness to one another (and the officer from Holyoke PD).
But what's next? If that was it -- if today's demo was the beginning and end of our struggle to put an end to coal-burning at Mount Tom -- we won't have achieved anything more than an hour in the outdoors, a sing-along, and a chat with old friends.
So what do you think? What will you commit to doing to stop the burning of coal? While you ponder that, please bear in mind that April 1 is coming up. It's exactly one month away and nowadays, at least as far as some of us are concerned, April 1 is Fossil Fools Day.
*Welsh people will know this already but, for blog readers who were careless enough to have been born outside Wales, I should mention that Saint David's claim to fame was a little out of the ordinary for religious leaders. He didn't slay dragons like St. George or expel snakes like St. Patrick. He just grew leeks. Wales may be the only country whose patron saint was an organic farmer.