I just got back to campus from the second Sleep Out of the semester, on the Cambridge Common.  It was a fantastic gathering, and as always, despite my scant hours of sleep and what felt like hours slogging through the rain, I have returned energized.

Here is the text of the speech I delivered yesterday during the rally.  For those of you who couldn’t make it, all the speakers were inspiring and brought valuable perspective to our campaign.  Hope to see you all on April 21st!

I’m here on the Cambridge Common today because I can’t sit back and let the powers that be determine my future and the future for everyone here.

I want to thank every one of you for making the decision to be here today, because I know we all have about seventeen other things we could be doing.  For those of us in college, everything is about preparing for the future.  So I’m sure some people gave you funny looks about coming here today.  Sleeping in a tent in the middle of the city doesn’t really sound like a great career move.  But this is about our futures in a way that reaches beyond anything we have faced before.

My parents met in Cambridge in 1979 at a volleyball game, because I guess that was the dating service of choice in the 70’s.  They got married in the chapel at Harvard.  They were both involved in local politics and love to talk about knowing Barney Frank before he made it big.  My Dad will still gloat about the community garden he helped start here.  By the time I was born they had moved down to Washington, but the roots they laid here in Cambridge were important.  My dad now only gardens in our backyard, but I learned from them the value of taking a stake in your community to turn it into the world you want to live in.

The world they lived in almost sounds quaint now.  Thirty years ago the internet was an obscure research project and we were locked into a Cold War with the Soviet Union.  Little could they have imagined that thirty years later the climate would pose a more imminent threat than nuclear Armageddon and the City of Cambridge would have declared a climate emergency.  They would never have imagined hundreds of people, including their daughter, gathering on the Common to call for solutions to a problem they had never heard of.  Think about how much has changed in the past thirty years.  What will the world look like thirty years from now?

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is: it’s up to us.

We have the drive, the energy, the imagination, the ingenuity and the determination not to quit that makes history.  Combining our forces and forming coalitions we will shape the state of the world in thirty years.

The bad news is: it’s going to be extremely hard, it’s going to take everything we’ve got, and powerful interests will be fighting us every step of the way.  It’s not going to end with this bill.  It’s not going to end with the next one. It’s not going to end until the world is a safe, stable, and just place for all our brothers and sisters.

We have an inspiring history of activism in this state and nation, but the climate crisis poses an unprecedented challenge which calls for unprecedented action.  My parents support me, but sometimes wonder why I need to do things that sound downright extreme to get the point across.  We sleep out because I want us thirty years from now to tell our children about the good old days of Sleep Outs and how we made the change we wanted to see in the world.  Revolutions are never easy.  This one won’t be an exception.  But when the other option is to lie down and play dead, it’s not too hard a choice to make.

In thirty year I will live in a world where everyone has access to water and healthy food, where electricity doesn’t have to come at the price of mountain tops, where tax payer dollars don’t go to fight wars for oil to fuel our cars, where all nations share a piece of the pie and where all people have power.

That’s the world I’m sleeping out for.

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The Sleep Out at Hampshire College has begun. We first pitched our tents on the Library Lawn on Sunday the 25th. Our efforts made the front page of the Climax, Hampshire’s paper, this Thursday and word is spreading around campus. Once the tents are up, people wander through, inquiring about our mission. Early one morning while still snuggled up in my sleeping bag, someone called out as he walked past, “Keep up the fight, tent people!”
The more nights you sleep out, the more you realize how much electricity dictates our lives. The other night, our tent was illuminated by the blue glow of laptops; we can’t even do our school work without plugging in. The power we use is a choice like any other; be it food, transportation or what we do with our trash. In this way, Sleeping Out is civil disobedience at its essence. We are choosing to step outside the system, one night at a time, and demand a smarter path. Turning on a light might be as simple as the flick of a switch, but it’s time to stop denying that it ends there.
A quick search on http://www.ilovemountains.org shows that my power provider in Amherst, Massachusetts Electric Co, purchases power from Somerset Station in Bristol, Mass. Somerset Station buys coal directly from Central Appalachian striping mining, including in Bob White, West Virginia. We know there are better ways to get energy than blowing up mountains. Let’s show it. Sleep Out.

Hampshire College Library Lawn

The scene of the crime.