Article & Statements contributed by Climate Courage
We, six members of Climate Courage, the direct action wing of 350 Massachusetts, here announce we have today, March 15, 2022 commences a hunger strike, "Fasting for a Future." We are Judith Black, Rob Bonney, Sue Donaldson, Joy Gurrie, Nathan Phillips, and Roger Rosen. We hope to draw attention to the insanity of building new fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us that the world absolutely cannot afford this.
The science is in. Our species is terrifyingly close to completely destroying the livability of our planet.
We are on a hunger strike to bring attention to that absolute truth that we must immediately stop building new ways to burn fossil fuels.
We are Judith Black (Marblehead), Rob Bonney (Salem), Sue Donaldson MD (Northampton), Joy Gurrie (Ipswich), Nathan Phillips PhD (Newton), and Roger Rosen (Arlington). [Please see our personal statements below.] We hunger strikers are from several towns, including MMWEC communities, and many allied organizations. What drew us together was the imperative to leave fossil fuels in the ground and to progress from conservation to renewable energy to battery facilities, to choose different, safer ways to meet our energy needs.
Specifically, Climate Courage demands a review of permitting for the latest new fossil fuel folly, the proposed Peabody peaker plant. Decision makers at local, state, and federal levels have supported an opaque and secretive decision making process. They have the power to avert this strike as soon as today, by meeting several simple demands and reconsidering these ill-conceived plans.
We demand a health and safety review of the planned construction of the Peabody peaker plant by the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC). This MMWEC project 2015A is an oil/gas peaker facility slated for Pulaski St. in Peabody, MA, within a social and environmental justice community, already impacted by other fossil fuel facilities. A similar example of new, unneeded fossil fuel infrastructure is the proposed Eversource gas pipeline in Springfield; this, too, must be stopped.
The Peabody community, through a new organization, Breathe Clean North Shore, has risen up to protest and stop this plant. Their 1250 local signatures and endless letters to Governor Charlie Baker and Secretary Kathleen A. Theoharides, asking them to do basic due diligence any community would deserve with a Community Health Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Review, have fallen on deaf ears.
The gas industry has pressured our electric grid operator, ISO-NE, to maintain their allegiance to methane for two more years, and the Federal Energy Regulation Commission has allowed them to do this.
Local light departments, who have agreed to buy energy from the plant, offered no vetting or stakeholder involvement to their ratepayers, and have many members that also sit on the MMWEC board.
Now there is a war in which Russia is invading Ukraine, and Europe is torn: wanting to side with Ukraine, but dependent on methane– much of which comes from Russia. Bill McKibben put it this way: “If you want to stand with the brave people of Ukraine, you need to find a way to stand against oil and gas.” Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that the window for action to avoid catastrophic climate change is fast closing.
In the face of this, what are people who care about a livable climate, where their children and grandchildren can flourish, to do? Six of us: Judith Black, Rob Bonney, Sue Donaldson MD, Joy Gurrie, Nathan Phillips PhD, and Roger Rosen have decided to hunger strike to bring attention to this very necessary shift to renewables and battery technology, and say in a loud clear voice: NO MORE FOSSIL FUELS!
Starting on March 15th, we hunger strikers will deliver our message to the Municipal Light Plant communities, and at state and federal buildings. We will work with local clean energy advocates to demand and/or ask the following:
- We demand municipal electric utilities immediately rescind their 2015A contracts.
- MMWEC: We demand MMWEC CEO Ronald DeCurzio cancel Project 2015a and re-apply for the 100MW Westover Energy Storage Center battery project.
- Executive Branch: We demand Governor Baker and Secretary Theoharides conduct basic due diligence by ordering the Community Health Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Review the community has been denied for seven years.
Legislative Branch: We ask Senator Cynthia Creem, Chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, to order an investigative hearing into opaque MMWEC contracts for the Peabody Peaker and the Westover Energy Storage Center.
- We demand that grid operator ISO New England CEO Gordon van Welie order an immediate re-hearing of his backroom decision to intentionally suppress renewable energy across New England for two years.
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Richard Glick and fellow Commissioners must reverse their concurrence on ISO-NE’s backroom decision to allow ISO-NE to utilize methane for two more years.
- President Joe Biden must support a European and North American transition to clean energy, so that no nation is at the mercy of gas and oil oligarchs.
We encourage anyone who wishes, and can do so safely, to join us in a symbolic fast of any length–6, 12, 24 hours. In doing so, you can express support for our goals. If you do fast, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will make public how many people do so!
We understand that there are many people who should not fast, or who struggle with eating, and a simple email expressing support is also welcome.
Press Contact: Joy Gurrie 978-380-0743 email@example.com
Statements by each striker
My name is Joy Gurrie. I am a mother and grandmother living in Ipswich. I retired from MIT’s Linear Accelerator Center in Middleton where I did computer-aided design. I had no plans for my retirement other than to pursue my interest in art and spend time with family.
I don’t remember what drew me to the People's Climate March in New York City in 2014. I had read that the organizers were hoping for 50,000 people to attend. 400,000 people showed up. The line of marchers on Central Park West was two miles long. A friend and I walked the length of it and I was in awe of the number of different groups and organizations that were there. Labor unions, physicians, religious groups, scientists…I even saw a sign that said “Grandmothers Against Climate Change”. So many people were represented. I remembered reading that they were going to have a moment of silence for the indigenous peoples and other front line communities most affected by the climate crisis. I was pressed in by the crowd, standing shoulder to shoulder with people chanting and bands playing. And then, from downtown, it got quieter and quieter and suddenly… I was standing in silence. It lasted a moment before traveling uptown. The crowd roared. In that moment of silence I felt my heart breaking open with love for this planet and its people, for all life on Earth. I was in a sea of humanity that wanted nothing more than clean water, air and soil, and nothing less than a complete change of our social and economic systems.
The March was organized by Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, a global, grassroots climate justice organization. When I got home from New York, I found an organization called 350 Mass, a statewide climate organization. They were just starting a chapter on the North Shore, where I live. I went to the first meeting, knowing very little about the climate crisis but wanting to make a difference.
Since then I’ve marched and protested. I’ve written letters and called on politicians to support legislation that protects the environment and encourages renewable energy. Most days it feels like nobody is listening. When I learned that some friends were planning a hunger strike and were asking for support, I didn’t hesitate to join them. I’m 70 years old and in good health. My reason for joining was simply that, as a privileged white person living in America, I CAN.
I can fast to stop an environmentally destructive and unnecessary oil and gas power plant from being built in Peabody;
I can fast to call on Governor Baker and Secretary Theoharides to conduct climate impact studies for the Peabody Power Plant;
I can fast to call for a complete end to the mining and burning of fossil fuels;
I can fast for a chance that future generations will inhabit a healthy and vibrant planet.
My 13 year old granddaughter loves dolphins and skiing. I want her future to include healthy oceans and snow covered mountains.
Sue Donaldson, MD
I am Sue Donaldson, MD, and I am trying to pay back my privilege.
I have been incredibly fortunate in my life. I have enjoyed the peak years of the benefits of the industrial revolution–comfort, travel, medicine, convenience.. I have never experienced a natural disaster or a war in my own country. , I have enough and more than enough.
So when I suddenly understood, some years ago, the threat that climate change posed to our world, I became convinced that this was the place to pay it back. While I had worked for a number of causes–homelessness, Democratic politics, gay rights–the cllimate crisis was clearly above and beyond any of those. The more I read about it, and the more talks I heard, the clearer it became: this was the tearing apart of our intricately networked ecosystem, and everything that relies on it.
In 2013, I started attending meetings of the climate group 350 Massachusetts. After one meeting, we were asked to write down "what we committed to do for the climate." I found myself writing, "In one year, I will be retired and doing this work full time." So a year later, I retired, and became a full time climate activist.
In my career, treating people with serious mental illness, I had considerable experience with people who were delusional, in denial, or at best short-sighted. But none of that prepared me for the failure of our governments to act on the climate crisis. I gradually increased the intensity of my activism. I am usually a quiet introvert, but have found myself yelling through a bullhorn in Harvard Square. A law-abiding citizen, I have been arrested multiple times for civil disobedience. None of that, as best I can tell, has made a dent in the juggernaut of business as usual. So now I am engaged in a hunger strike.
No single citizen can truly move the needle on climate change. But if each of us tackles the specific issues before us, we can make a difference. The Peabody peaker plant, the choices of ISO-New England, even the choices of a single municipal light plant, are the issues in front of me. So while our goal is global, our demands are local. Light boards, pull out of the contract with MMWEC. MMWEC, do not build this monstrosity. Governor Baker, stop allowing new fossil fuel infrastructure in Massachusetts.
The specter of what climate change will bring is horrifying. It is not just stronger hurricanes and flooding of beachside homes. Climate change means mass migration, civil conflict and war. It means mass starvation, and economic disaster. And of course, it will land hardest on those who already have the least, and have done the least to cause it. In participating in this strike, I share in some small way what others will involuntarily suffer, in hopes that they will suffer a little less.
My name is Judith Black. I am the third child of Harold and Helen Black of Pittsburgh PA, the mother of Solomon Black, and the granny of Abigail and Seth. It is that 3rd role that has brought me to this hunger strike.
Growing up in a profoundly anti-racist, Jewish home, certain values were inculcated and those included standing up and fighting injustice. Will never forget asking the rabbi, (early 60’s) prior to confirmation why our synagogue wasn’t deeply involved in the fight for racial equality. When I shared his answer with my father “Is it good for the Jews?” He was on the horn to this man in seconds lecturing him on the very values that were taught during our Sunday School lessons. Our home was a gathering place for a united nations of colors and faiths, from which I learned that if one human is threatened or treated unjustly, we all are.
I spent my work life as an early childhood educator and artist-in-residence, using storytelling to both nurture and help children learn, digest experience, and address their fears. When that fear is a boogey man in the night, abandonment, a new home or educational environment, I had stories to accept the truth of that fear and then model ways for the child to survive and thrive. For instance, what is the tale of Hansel and Gretel if not the fear of being abandoned blown up on the big screen of hunger, stressed parents, and potentially deadly woods filled with child eating witches? However, through that story a child can be validated in their feeling and then identify with the courage and strength of Gretel, escape the witch, the woods, and find a loving home again. What story is there to calm their fears about an unlivable planet?
Working in this art form for adults on stages from the Montreal Comedy Festival to the National Storytelling Festival, to the Art Museum of Cape Town, SA, I was blessed to learn a great deal about what we all share. Once, after telling a story about a young woman whose faith in the cross, the table and the book enabled her to overcome enormous heartbreak and remain vital in her christian life of the 1830’s, I was approached by girl on the cusp of adolescence. Her blond hair curled onto an open, pretty face with big blue eyes. “Ma’am” she said in her gentle southern drawl, I sure would like to hear your testimony.” I bent a little to meet her eye to eye and simply said “I’m Jewish, and not really sure what a testimony is.” She looked like a deer caught in the headlights, but I took her hand “If the spirit of love is the god we share then there are many paths up that mountain. Hope to see you at the top.” She smiled.
We have known about our climate crisis for many decades, but have chosen to be lulled by the reassurances of large energy companies and the mute inaction of governments. Do you see that beautiful child on my lap? She and her brother are now doomed to grow into a world of demolished biodiversity, ever more extreme fires, floods, draughts, pandemics, and heat, the likes of which we have never known.
The Peabody peaker plant, a dirty oil/gas facility, designed by MMWEC is my line in the sand. As a member of Breathe Clean North Shore, MCAN, Community Action Works, and 350 Mass we have pursued every legal route to stop this plant, but the powers that be hold a strong grip on business as usual. We must upend this way of doing business or my grandchildren and yours will not have a livable planet to flourish on. If that means starving my body to bring attention to this injustice against the planet and all that reside upon it, so be it.
Nathan G. Phillips
Why I am Fasting For a Future
As a parent and environmental scientist, I’m joining this action to help claim the clean energy abundance that is due our two children, and all children and future generations, in Peabody, Danvers, Salem, Eastie; to Springfield and Weymouth; from Massachusetts to Minnesota, and everywhere the fossil fuel industry is prioritizing profit over people.
I’m someone who loves food and has the good fortune and privilege to be able to fast for our future. Despite what a hunger strike evokes, this strike is about abundance, not austerity; defiance, not self-denial; freedom not fear; and an active hope that nourishes and sustains our hunger for justice. And while the risks we are taking are serious, it is a joy to be able to offer my body along with incredible climate champions in the fight for our lives. I am in this to win for our kids and all life on our precious planet.
Some may minimize the Peabody Peaker as an unfortunate but relatively small fossil fuel project. But we audaciously declare this a Strike Heard Around the World. Make no mistake: the climate emergency is the sum total of every project big and small which sets us backwards when we need to be moving forward. Moreover; we have recently discovered that the injustice in Peabody directly involves decision makers across the state, region, and nation who have the power to reverse the bad decisions that led to the ill-conceived Peabody Peaker. The Peabody Peaker is a climate emergency connected with the Massachusetts climate emergency, the New England climate emergency, the US climate emergency, and the global climate emergency, which is fueling war today. Peabody is a line in the sand and on the shore which we will not let the fossil fuel industry cross.
My name is Rob Bonney.
I am participating in a hunger strike because I am desperate to wake people up to just how urgent the the climate crisis is.
Many people have expressed support to me over the years for my work on climate and yet I can tell many don’t know how serious a problem we face. Others think there is nothing they can do. We are all busy. But we do not have enough people taking adequate action. We and our children face life-threatening challenges if many more people don’t step up.
Yes, I’m talking about sacrifice. Decrease fossil fuel use by cutting back drastically on spending and investments that create greenhouse gasses (primarily burning fuels). Campaign for and financially support candidates that will truly lead on climate. Commit to being truly active in climate organizations.
This is not a selfless act. I am deeply concerned about my future. However, I have had a fortunate life, full of love and adventure, and rewarding work helping to improve opportunities for people with disabilities. If this is all I get, it is more than enough. My well-being does motivate me but people younger than myself deserve a chance to live a good life and that motivates me even more.
I don’t wish to die. I have much to offer. However, I can’t justify turning a blind eye because I’ve already had so much good in my life and I believe this hunger strike is the most impactful thing I can do now for the people I care about and for all people and creatures on this planet.
Why I am Fasting for a Future
In joining my fellow climate activists in this fast, my purpose is to interrupt the normal routines of my life in order to focus more sharply on the climate crisis. I love food, and I believe eating is one of the greatest pleasures in life. I was raised in a Jewish family where meals were the primary place we gathered to connect, socialize, and enjoy each others’ company. It’s hard to think of something I would want to give up less.
So for me, this hunger strike is about deciding to do something very different than what I am used to and what I am comfortable with. The immediate goal is to bring attention to the scandal that is the Peabody Peaker Plant.
However, in the same way that my fast is stepping outside of my comfort zone, we need to step outside of our narrow way of thinking to be able to confront the enormity of the climate emergency.
We are at the most important hinge in human history. We are facing the collapse of our life support systems. Nonetheless, the opportunity to create a more just and beautiful world has never been greater. We can create a future that will provide a kinder, more nourishing and nurturing quality of life than we have ever experienced. But we cannot do it under the economic and energy systems that currently rule our lives and are carrying us at an accelerating pace toward disaster.
The transformation of the energy economy—indeed, of the global economy—that is required if we hope to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change is beyond what most of us have tried to imagine up until now. But imagine it we must—and we can. It can be woven together from many different ideas and sources. It will be a system that does not depend on perpetual growth and perpetual profit-making. It doesn’t have a name yet. But we can create that name.
It’s an exciting moment to be alive.
Announcement of standout in Peabody on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 4:30-6:00 pm