Posted on behalf of Craig Altemose, Coordinator of the Leadership Campaign

An update from the front lines of Massachusetts

Last night, I slept in my bed.

Normally, such an action is not newsworthy, but for me, it was the first time I had slept in my bed since the night of October 23rd, 2009.  Like hundreds of other students, religious leaders, and community members across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts participating in The Leadership Campaign, I have been refusing to sleep in my home powered by dirty electricity until the state implements a policy before December 7th (the start of Copenhagen) to Repower Massachusetts with 100% Clean Electricity by 2020.

100% Clean Electricity is an ambitious goal, or so I’m informed. I invariably reply that sometimes the impossible is necessary. And the necessity of passing legislation, or actually beginning the transformation that will let us live in a just and stable world is understood by a staggering amount of people, both students and community members. At last Sunday’s Sleep-Out  on the Boston Common, we had well over a hundred people there. While that number may not be staggering, the fact that 120 people stayed to receive citations from police, even when explicity told they could leave, staggers me. Here are people who understand the seriousness of the crisis we are all in, people willing to stand by there values.

So why did I give in?  It was not a conscious decision.  I fell ill on Tuesday, and started feeling much worse yesterday.  My girlfriend strongly encouraged me to get a solid night’s rest in bed, and I begrudgingly agreed to go and lie down in bed for a bit, not quite agreeing but realizing it was likely that I would not emerge until the next morning.

I have little to comment about my lapse.  I recognize that the hundreds of millions of climate refugees who will soon be forced from their homes will not likely get to ‘take a break’ when they get sick.  Indeed, malnourished refugees are more often than not probably going to be fighting off one disease or another.  Nor will they get to rise from their nice, warm sleeping bags in their dry tents and walk a short distance to a warm shower to start upon their day.

Perhaps, then, this movement will require higher degrees of sacrifice for us to convey the seriousness and the urgency of global destabilization as a result of rapid climatic disruption.  But that is for another post.  For now, I would like to comment on where we are, after three-and-a-half weeks of sleeping out.

A Brief Summary

We are calling on the elected officials of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pass a bill to Repower Massachusetts with 100% Clean Electricity by 2020.  Towards this end, students and community members across the state have been sleeping outside to protest the dirty-electricity that powers our homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship, and to draw attention to our world of contradictions.

Is it working?

I’ll let the reader be the judge of that.  But here, is an update, after some 25 days of sleeping outside.

Politics

We have recruited 21 state legislators (out of a total of 200) who have agreed to sign on to our letter to Governor Patrick, asking him to introduce our bill for 100% Clean Electricity by 2020.  We had a meeting on Tuesday with Governor Patrick, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles, and Assistant Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs for Policy, David Cash.  These three leaders listened attentively to our impassioned plea, and are expected to get back to us tomorrow with their assessment of Massachusetts’ potential to lead the world to a safe and stable future.  If the Governor does not feel suitably prepared to introduce our bill, we have a state legislator who has confirmed his willingness to do so at any moment.

We’ve also gotten the attention of senate candidate Alan Khazei (who might pop in for a visit) and Senator John Kerry who said that “this kind of grassroots activism sends a strong message across Massachusetts that climate change must be addressed now, not years from now.”

Media

We have had over fifty media hits, from outlets as diverse as campus newspapersthe Boston Globe, NPR, ABCNBCU.S. News and World ReportScience MagazineDaily KosGrist, and the Weekly Dig.

Leading Organizations

Support for 100% Clean Electricity has continued to build.  In addition to Students for a Just and Stable Future (formerly Massachusetts Power Shift, the lead group), The Leadership Campaign has been endorsed by over two-dozen groupsincluding religious organizations (Massachusetts Council of Churches, Religious Witness for the Earth, and others), community groups (Massachusetts Climate Action Network, Somerville Climate Action Network, Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities), and even a political party (Massachusetts Green/Rainbow Party).  We are thrilled to have the support of all of these groups, and excited to have more join us in the weeks to come.

Supporters

A number of prominent individuals have brought us support in our struggle, including Bill McKibben and Dr. James Hansen, religious leaders like Episcopalian Bishop Bud Cederholm and Rev. Jim Antal, and political candidates (former Green Party gubernatorial candidates Grace Ross and Jill Stein).

Police Interactions

For better or for worse, it is illegal to be on the Boston Common after 11:00PM.  While this ordinance was passed with the most sincere of intentions, one wonders what our forbearer’s would think of our Commonwealth when people receive citations for demonstrating on the Commons.  Does democracy really close at 11:00PM?

We believe it does not, and have as a result decided to stand our ground on the Boston Common, and accept the legal consequences (a misdemeanor trespassing charge).  We hold no grudges against the courteous police officers who give us citations every week.  Indeed, we recognize they, like us, have a job to do.   Their primary duty is to enforce the law and keep the people safe, and we respect and applaud their efforts towards that end.

Most of the above leaders have even stood with us in the face of police citations for trespassing on the Boston Common (where we gather every Sunday evening).  If we make it to court, it should be a pretty good trial, complete with clergy in collars, a respected NASA scientist, and a world-renowned journalist and activist.

Student Power

But perhaps the most exciting achievement to date so far has not been the political support we have won, the prominent individuals and organizations who have come to our aid, or the media attention we have garnered.  Rather, it is the building of bonds across colleges and universities.   We, the students, are growing closer and closer together with each passing sleep-out.  With every tent we put up and every tent we take down, we are building the bonds of friendship that will make this movement win.  Hundreds of students have taken part, and each one has realized that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.  They have felt, and they have come to learn the names, faces, and stories of those who stand (and sleep) beside them.  As more community members join our sleepouts, they, too, our building with our students and with each other the relationships so needed to change the movement.

The Means Are The End

While the tactic seems to be fairly successful at earning us attention and demonstrating the depth of our resolve, it has also done wonders to help us see each other in a new light.  Not as students, not as community members, but as people possessing the principled determination we need to win.

We are going to win.

We are going to win because we believe in the strength of humanity.  We are going to win because we believe that our leaders, when presented with the dire predictions of science, will rise to the occasion.  We are going to win because realize what is at stake – our futures, and indeed, our very lives – and we treat the situation accordingly.  We are going to win because we are willing to sacrifice something morally significant – not just a warm bed, but in many cases, classes, grades, study abroad opportunities, criminal records, or career choices.

We are going to win because we will not stop until every single fossil fuel facility in our state ceases emitting greenhouse gases.  We are going to win because we will not stop until there is a solar panel on every roof, thick insulation in every building, and a wind turbine on every hill.

The question is not if we win, but when we win.  And that is a question I cannot answer.

But I can say this:  When future generations look back upon our time, and ask what the human race was doing when the world was burning, they will be able to look at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and find people who swam against the tide, who spoke out when others were silent, who stood (and slept) for justice.

And P.S.  I’m still sick, but I’m going to be sleeping in a tent again tonight. :)

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Friends.

Our campaign is so legitimate sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure its real.  James Hansen, most badass scientist around joined us last week.

I hope that my testimony will show you that Massachusetts has the opportunity to be a leader with 100% clean electricity” –Dr. James Hansen, to Senator Pacheco before our informational hearing before the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change.

 

But then.  BUTTT THEN! We get none other than Bill McKibben.

Cited by police last night for sleeping-in with 100s of Mass students on Boston Common for clean energy. Small price for great evening Bill McKibben on Twitter

On Sunday, Bill was the keynote at the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN)  conference at MIT.  He then lead a March for Climate from MIT to the Boston Common where we rallied strong for 100% clean electricity by 2020.  The march took at least 40 minutes and required us at some points to take up an entire lane of traffic.  It brought back memories to Power Shift ’09 when my friends and I joined a spontaneous march to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after the Roots concert at 11PM on a Saturday night.  Only the best climate change activists would get crazy and march to the White House immediately following a concert on a Saturday night in the winter.

 

Marches have something great to them.  It is so inspirational to be surrounded by hundreds of people who feel exactly the same about an issue as you do.  It’s not about the chants, the signs you carry or really where you’re marching to.  Its the fact that you are with people who care, just like you!  I couldn’t trade that feeling in for the world.

 

There were well over 200 people in attendance and the speeches were phenomenal.

A video clip of the speeches and the march:

 

Pay close attention to Katie MacDonald, Regional Coordinator for Western Mass who speaks right before Bill.  Her words to me were the most inspiring I’ve heard all semester.

 

Bill slept out with us, in fact slept in Clark’s tent (they had the most participants..27! and they’re 45 minutes away!!) but had to wake up at 5 AM to catch a flight.  At 2AM however, the police came! Joy! 12 officers came and told everyone to get out of their tents.  If they did not leave the tents they would be arrested.  We were all gathered on the sidewalk off the green space.  One of the really loud officers yelled, “If you want to leave please do.  If you do not leave now you will be receiving a court summons.” Last week, people left due to mixed messaging we sent.

This week…the unthinkable happened:  Nobody left.

My final count: 122 people remained on the sidewalk and pretty much asked for citations by Boston Police.  TALK ABOUT EMPOWERING! Solidarity is a great act.  If we go down, we all go down together.

 

For life as we know it,

Dan Abrams

Boston & New Media Coordinator

The Leadership Campaign

 

 

 

 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we have a Flickr account attached to our website (www.theleadershipcampaign.org) and this blog (on the right!! –>)

We have a range of people submitting photos which makes an interesting compilation from our 4 Common sleepouts so far.

The amazing photos come from these amazing photographers: Ian Maclellan, Diana Mai, Bosco Lliso and Nera Lerner!

Check out our photostream here

BUT: I’m looking for photos from on campus activities!! Take pictures of your sleep-outs on campus, your recruitment tactics…etc.  Send them to me! They don’t have to be the best quality but we want them interesting.  Send to: dabrams@masspowershift.org

 

There hasn’t been any blogging regarding Sunday’s sleepout.  That will come in a minute.

For life as we know it,

-Dan Abrams

Boston & New Media Coordinator

The Leadership Campaign

I’m doing it. at Ufood!

Eating and saving the world at the same time! The only way to live!

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and

 

 

 

-Dan Abrams

Boston & New Media Coordinator

The Leadership Campaign

The president of the Maldives, a small island country that recently came into the spotlight for its fierce determination to end climate disruption, recently said a few remarks about Copenhagen and the urgency for action:

(I stole this from an email I got from 350.org)

We are gathered here because we are the most vulnerable group of nations to climate change.
Some might prefer us to suffer in silence but today we have decided to speak…we will not die quietly.

Members of the G8 rich countries have pledged to halt temperature rises to two degrees Celsius. Yet they have refused to commit to the carbon targets, which would deliver even this modest goal.

At two degrees we would lose the coral reefs. At two degrees we would melt Greenland. At two degrees my country would not survive.

As a president I cannot accept this.  As a person I cannot accept this.

I refuse to believe that it is too late, and that we cannot do any about it. Copenhagen is our date with destiny.  Let us go there with a better plan.

Nasheed called on all nations to push for carbon neutrality in order to ensure the survival of his country and all the most vulnerable people around the world:

After all, it is not carbon we want, but development.  It is not coal we want, but electricity. It is not oil we want, but transport. Low-carbon technologies now exist, to deliver all the goods and services we need. Let us make the goal of using them.

Finally, he made the distinction between what might be considered a good deal in Copenhagen, and one that would ensure the end of his people:

At the moment every country arrives at the negotiations seeking to keep their own emissions as high as possible.  They never make commitments, unless someone else does first.

This is the logic of the madhouse, a recipe for collective suicide.

We don’t want a global suicide pact.  And we will not sign a global suicide pact, in Copenhagen or anywhere.  So today, I invite some of the most vulnerable nations in the world, to join a global survival pact instead.

 

FINALLY, WE HAVE A PRESIDENT WITH THE BALLS TO SPEAK THE TRUTH.  I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of hearing people are against us.  When will they realize they are only fighting themselves?

 

For life as we know it,

Dan Abrams

Boston & New Media Coordinator

The Leadership Campaign

 

 

HELL YES!

 

For life as we know it,

Dan Abrams

Boston & New Media Coordinator

The Leadership Campaign

This is a post Eddie wrote on a different blog and I think its a great idea and not that difficult to do:

When we had bread and a small camping stove set up as a center of our camp, it brought about twice as many supporters in to the site. These supporters were often interested in what we were doing, and sometimes able to sign our clipboard and join us the next night. Here’s how we doubled support in one night:

1. Scope out bakeries in your area. Panera is what I went with because it is on the way and closes at 10 which is when we start the S-Os. Go by during the day.
2. Ask if they usually give away their extra bread at the end of the day. If they don’t, and they bake the bread there, they’ll usually be throwing a lot out.
3. Get a number of a night manager you can contact, thank them, and then call that night. Tell them that you were hoping to confirm the donation of extra bread and pastries, and go by either just before close or up to 30min later.

If done properly, you are going to have a lot of bread for your event. We got donations of wrapped baguettes, loose bread, pastries, donuts, bagels, and sweets. (The Blondies were delicious). We were able to have open boxes and plenty to share around. It was a source of community and friendly gesture to the people who were interested in the campaign.

I hope to follow up with Panera now to arrange a weekly schedule pickup. From just one load with 2 volunteers (we couldn’t carry it all!), we could support the S-O for two days.

Next up: figuring out coffee donations. Stay tuned for more from BU!
-Eddie
Community Outreach,
Tuesday Night Site Coordinator @ BU

 

I also recommend doing this at pizza places or the like that throw their food out at night.  Great idea, Eddie!