I was arrested a week ago. Getting arrested is good for news headlines and Facebook statuses. But getting arrested wasn’t the point.
We were trying to remove fuel from the fire that’s burning our planet. This specific fire: the coal-fired Merrimack Generating Station in Bow, NH. But that wasn’t the point either.
The point was to build power, to build unity, to build a sense of what is possible. To deepen our bonds with each other as friends and community. To increase our ability to take risks. To act from our hearts and conviction. To take one more step — together — in a strategic, nonviolent campaign to shut this plant down for good and save what we can of our futures and our burning planet.
We definitely did all those things, and we did them with an extraordinary quantity of bravery, care, and love. That combination creates a magical kind of power. It’s the kind of power that can build the world beyond the horizon.
Gathering at the Concord UU church. Photo by ECHO Action NH.
This weekend on the South Coast of Massachusetts we're going to get to witness the end of an era in the state, when a controlled demolition implodes the huge cooling towers on Saturday April 27th. Providence's Extraordinary Rendition Band will provide the soundtrack for a jubilant dance party in Fall River's Kennedy Park at 8AM that morning. (I hope you'll join us!) This moment is both an important moment for our movement to reflect, as well as a personal point for me.
I got into climate disobedience in earnest in 2013 when Ken Ward and I anchored our little white lobster boat, the "Henry David T" in the shipping channel in front of the coal plant, and demanded that the plant be shut down immediately. We remained there for a day, blocking the unloading of 40,000 tons of Appalachian coal from a hulking black ship which has traveled up from Norfolk, Virginia, to supply what was then the largest single source of CO2 emissions in New England.
That act of disobedience lit a fire in the climate movement to focus on direct action and hone in on that massive coal plant. That summer, there were hundreds of people at the gates of the plant demanding it's immediate closure, dozens were arrested at the gates, and a long march kicked off later that summer from Fall River to the proposed site of Cape Wind.
And it's precisely here that we see the catalytic work of climate disobedience: to set a narrative, grounded in the moral imagination of what is necessary, rather than what is thought to be politically possible. Prior to the lobster boat action, advocates were proposing that the plant be shut down by 2020. But on Saturday the plant will have been shut down for nearly two years and the huge monuments that tower above the skyline of Fall River (let alone Somerset) will come down forever.
IT WAS NOT CHEAP GAS
But why, you might ask, have a dance party celebration for the climate justice movement when it was cheap fracked gas that really shut down the plant? It's conventional wisdom to say that this plant was shut down because the cost of coal couldn't compete against cheap fracked gas flowing into New England. And we're going to dance because we believe that premise is utterly false - or at least incomplete.Read more