Coal Plant Shutdowns: Economic Justice for Communities

On November 12, 2013, I attended the hearing of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy at which Rep. Lori Ehrlich of the 8th Essex District testified in support of H. 2935. Here’s my Storify record.

  1. Here @ state house 4hearing on H.2935, An Act to Transition to 2 #CleanEnergyCommonwealth and its community transition fund #climatechange
  2. Amazing confluence of several streams this morning at #MA state house: #Parenting, #ClimateChange, #Envirojustice. 1/2
  3. #Climatechange hearing @ MA state house. I’m here w/ @mothersoutfront and residents of communities w/#coal plants t.co/M8IVYir6AF
  4. Gr8 2B w/so many @MothersOutFront 2day 2demand progress on #climatechange WITH attention 2communities impacted (jobs, tax revenues). #MAPOLI
  5. Cancer survivor, Somerset resident whose grandson is an asthmatic now speaking. #climatechange MT @Mothersoutfront t.co/ZkBjR2tfd7
    Pro-active approach needed so towns historiclly dependnt on taxes from coal plants=better prepared.@BetterFuturePro t.co/Z3JKxvXrxj
  6. #AppalachiaNorth is what those who support H. 2935 feel Holyoke, Somerset, Salem should be considered. #climatechange MT @Mothersoutfront
  7. Resident of Salem since ’79 now speaking …Salem skyline dominated by stacks..visited Appalachia to see what #coal co’s do when leaving.
  8. Toxics Action Center Campaigns was proud to co-host a lobby day with Coal Free Mass today! Coal plant owners… t.co/pBSQzfXRic
  9. @loriehrlich speaks at Coal Free Day. Natural gas prices leading to closing of coal plants. #mapoli @EnviroLeagueMA t.co/gvulWRFqPi
  10. Three residents (Holyoke, Somerset, Salem) now testifying in support of H.3945. #climatechange #ecojustice #coal t.co/J4kbYbIIGt
  11. Holyoke res Carlos Rodriguez: wife has been 2ER 4x this yr (asthma). 1visit: half of others in ER were there for same reason. #Envirojustice
  12. Pauline Rodrigues:Somerset tax base red. fr $13M to $975K now that #BraytonPoint closure.. 200 workers now @plant. Asks 4healthy industries.
  13. Reuse planning needs 2have community voice, restoration of land and water, says Salem resident supporting the bill #CleanEnergyCommonwealth
    Liked!

A day for outrage, a year for exponential change

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Today my twelve-year-old daughter and I joined hundreds of men, women and children at Brayton Point, a coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. We were with Mothers Out Front and 350.org; we were with an angry mother from West Virginia coal country; we were in a community that deserves not to be the seat of protest, but rather the locus of hope that a radical turnaround in the use of fossil fuels could bring.

Indeed, it’s the economic predicament of towns like Somerset and coal towns in Appalachia that seem to give my daughter the most pause.

It’s the feeling of imposing, even intruding, on a community, that made me balk, even as I walked and shouted in view of the plant. There were a few protesters who voiced their support of the Somerset community to the onlookers whom we assumed to be local.
“We want you to have good jobs,”
called out one, passing a teenager with two adults (and a dog) who stared at the procession en route. However weak the delivery, however it may have raised more questions than answers, that sentiment was–is–right. And if it’s not right up front, and backed with deeds, not pledges, then this isn’t a transformation that’s going to have wings. I’ll trade you those for the lead boots of political pandering and the duplicity of coal companies any day.

We’re tired, and a bit dehydrated, but with much more to say later about our experiences. Stay tuned for profiles of some of the people we met in the shadow of the power plant today. Meanwhile, my twitter feed will give you a window on our day of outrage and incredulity that coal still plays a role in our power supply.

Off Trail in the Peppermint Forest

It’s time for me to leave the sidelines.

It’s time for slow this-and-that. Slow Food. Slow Families. Slow Medicine, even.

Unplug. Be in the moment. Pay attention. But to what?

The “movement” to simplify has, in a way, come full circle. I like those nice two-word concepts, above. Actually, two-word concepts is about all I can stomach these days. A life of slogans has an appeal. As I’m getting older (and harder of hearing) a barrage of verbiage isn’t cutting it any more. Leave me alone, garrulous adolescents, repetitive whining little ones, and radio mavens.  Even noncommercial radio is turning me off with the pitter-patter of its patter, so I’m turning it off. And online petitions? Here’s the checklist as it exists in the back bar-room of my mind. The list gets the same treatment as any sequence of paragraphs did in my 1979 journalism class—the whole piece has to stand on its own when the bottom paragraphs get lopped off:

  • Child #1 CHECK
  • Child #2 CHECK (If there is a third, fourth, and fifth, and so forth, they all get checked off, too)
  • Spouse (if applicable) CHECK
  • Job    CHECK
  • Making Meals CHECK
  • Paying Bills  CHECK
  • Laundry NOT SO MUCH
  • Sleep, Hygiene, Doctor Appts, Downtime—that whole shebang SURE, BUT HIGHLY VARIABLE
  • Furthering Social Justice, Doing Unto Others, Understanding Afghanistan, Change.Org Petitions, Reversing Climate Change…

Wait a minute, what was that last one? Should that even be on my list at all, even at the bottom?

See, I think, in all of this urgency to be “slow” and to return to the basics, something else basic is missing. Not something, two things.

You can’t be “Slow” if you’re trying to make ends meet.

Not slow in that aged cheese, hand-packed lunch for the kids sort of way, not if getting to work, keeping up with bills or getting work is out of reach.

You can’t be “Slow” if it’s a shortcut to the sidelines.

In Chutes and Ladders, and in Candy Land, you have NO CONTROL over your destiny. Are these the games we want our kids to learn? Because they need to learn the cardinal rule that you have NO CONTROL over whether you get socked with the “Plumpy” second-rate hard candy or end up shacking up with “King Kandy” at the Candy Castle.

Off Trail in the Peppermint Forest. Who needs a path when the path that's been charted by others leads to malaria in northern climes?
Off Trail in the Peppermint Forest. Who needs a path when the path that’s been charted by others leads to malaria in northern climes?

I like aged cheese and hand-canning and growing my own parsley just as much as the next person (on the cheese front—maybe more, sorry to say). But as I’m bushwhacking through the vines of parenthood (think Little Shop of Horrors) and feeling sorry for myself way too often for the emotional and physical ramifications of being a “mature mother”—a phrase I never use even in my own head because it’s simply an awful euphemism, but I’ll use it now anyway because SLOW JOURNALISM at this moment means just-in-time-ranting, aka unedited and unexpurgated and the mature mother thing is an epithet—I’m unable to lop off that very last thing with my wicked cool mom-ninja-machete.

That last thing on the list is so—I don’t know, so—overwhelming as to be farcical. It’s like World Peace. Yeah, I’m going to work for world peace—by grabbing my kids who are screaming and trying to maim each other over something someone took from someone else’s room when the rule is you can’t go in someone else’s room without permission.

No, that last thing had to do with global warming, had to do with not only the messed-up politics in the country but the entire economy and actually the entire planet. Mother Earth.

I wonder what her list looks like.