“The Tide is Rising and So Are We”

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Tue, 02/15/2022 - 22:25
Red rebels, several figures in red robes and hats

Guest post by Judith Black

On February 2 the North Shore Chamber of Commerce in Danvers, Massachusetts, held their annual Business Insight Breakfast: Energy Forum. So, whom did they invite to focus on clean energy innovations?  Two behemoths, Enbridge, one of the largest fossil fuel pipeline companies, responsible for dirty tar sands pipelines including LINE 3, and the Weymouth Compressor Station; and National Grid.

As expected, they spent the hour greenwashing, promoting hydrogen, Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) and carbon capture and sequestration. Two of the three are future technologies with high energy costs and little promise, and the third, Renewable Natural Gas, collected from landfills and farms, is still methane and burning it creates all the same hazards as fracked gas.

As I listened to their presentations, it was really difficult to understand how they could be allowed to ballyhoo these same technologies year after year, with no real progress, while renewables are here, available, proven, and more affordable. Clearly, their real desire is to maintain the centralized creation, domination, and thus, capitalization of energy production.

This industry is fighting for their lives…not ours.

I had joined the North Shore Chamber six months earlier in an attempt,with several other Chamber members, to advocate for an authentic renewable energy company to be included in the panel. The Executive Director of the Chamber ignored our entreaties but did invite Judy Chang, Massachusetts Undersecretary of Energy Policy and Climate Solutions. We thought that at the least breakfast goers would learn about the Next Generation Roadmap Act passed in March, 2021, and what it means for small businesses. Unfortunately, Ms. Chang was unable to attend.

Out in the Streets Again for a REAL Energy Transition

The 350 Mass North Shore Node organized a protest that was stunning, impactful, and (yes, this is important, too) fun. Our focus was their terrible greenwashing and the need for an immediate clean energy transition. Since the Chamber rescheduled the event twice, we had many months to plan this action.

Protesters hold signs by the road
Protesters Nathan Phillips, Maria Wilkins, Kate Enderin

We decided that we wanted to ally with, rather than alienate, the breakfast participants. They are business folk from all over the North Shore who will be compelled to abide by our new state legislation, and thus need to learn about clean energy. They certainly would not learn this through the Chamber of Commerce program, so we tried to wake them up and simultaneously let these large companies know that we will ALWAYS be there, making them accountable for their actions. We pursued a multi-pronged approach.

Woman in baloon costume, "Methane Linda," and sign holders
Woman in balloon costume, "Methane Linda," and sign holders

1. We had a small crew of protesters greeting participants at 7:30 as they arrived to alert them they’d get a biased presentation. 

2. Inside, I had some tough questions and a few important anecdotes to share about these companies’ misdeeds and greenwashing. Not surprisingly, the professional PR folks responded by ignoring my questions and diverting to their own messaging. I was encouraged that a couple other Chamber members asked equally tough—but unanswered—questions about solar and hydrogen. The participants now knew the issues.

3.  As they left, breakfast goers were greeted with handouts under everyone’s windshield wipers which listed local renewable energy companies. Then, when exiting the property, they were greeted by us!

Protest time! Roger Rosen led singing. Extinction Rebellion’s Red Rebels were our beautifully slow-moving oracles in brilliant red flowing robes. The North American Indian Center of Boston and other participants produced gorgeous banners and signage. Mothers Out Front loaned us hysterical, balloon-like methane costumes. Nathan Phillips, the activist Boston University professor, spoke passionately. Our node brought our tar sands pipeline, Burma Shave signs, many people, and lots of heart.

Sign about treaties and a pipeline
Sign about honoring treaties and stopping a pipeline provided by the North American Indian Center of Boston

It was an utterly joyous event! People came from Arlington, Watertown, Lowell, Cape Ann and the North Shore, clearly thrilled to see one another and engage, together, again, in the fight for a livable climate. We understood that nurturing and celebrating this luminous community of activists is as important as speaking truth to Enbridge, National Grid, and the members of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce. We sang, chanted, passed out information sheets, reconnected, and truly felt stronger together.

Going forward we are planning a dog and pony show for local chambers on how they can promote energy efficiency, shift to renewables, and consider their roles in our clean energy future.

Red Rebels and Enbridge poster
Red Rebels and Enbridge poster

Onward we go.

Eileen gets report on meeting from Judith Black
Judith Black (right) tells Eileen Ryan (left) about the Energy Forum

“The Tide is Rising and So Are We” is taken from the song by Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman & Yotam Schachter

Photos: Contributed by participants, including by Stephen Malagodi

About Judith Black, storyteller and writer

Contact: storiesalive@gmail.com  Please do visit my storytelling web site: www.storiesalive.com and watch my Ted Talk: An Antidote to Despair-Storytelling and the Climate Crisis