This past Sunday, I slept out in the Cambridge Commons. Why do we love the sleep out so much and why is it so powerful? I love the sleep out, but I am always cold and the next week is always a tough one. But there is still something about the sleep out that is powerful beyond measure. When I set up my tent in the Cambridge Commons, I felt as if I had returned home. I was surrounded by some very good friends I hadn’t seen in about a month. By placing the tents on the commons, we transformed it into a place of camaraderie  because  we were all working to see a Just and Stable Future on this planet by fighting against  the dangers of climate change. I am in a class this semester entitled “Sacred Space.” In this class we examine different spatial archetypes and their characteristics. A couple of weeks ago we looked at the spatial archetype of a threshold. A threshold is literally defined a the piece of metal or wood underneath a door frame. However, this concept embodies much more than that. I was assigned a paper, which asked me to use an experience to understand the idea of a threshold. By using the threshold to understand the sleep out, I gained so much insight into why they are such powerful, effective, and emotional experiences. Here is my understanding of our sleep out on the Boston Commons through the spatial archetype of a threshold.

—————————-

Threshold is defined as an entrance or a doorway. However, the word symbolizes a concept that expresses much more.  The doorway represents things such as changes in life and separations from public and private space. We understand the world in terms of thresholds: birthdays, holidays, and new school years are all examples. By viewing the world through the spatial archetype of a threshold, greater insight and understanding into experiences can be reached.

Last semester I was involved in a seven week sleep-out.  Students, community partners, and clergy members across the state of Massachusetts declared they would not sleep in their homes, which are powered by dirty energy that is killing our planet, until the state repowered with 100% clean electricity. Every Sunday, the campaign conveyed for a sleep-out on the Boston Commons, literally across the street from the State House, to show our legislators we wanted change.

Naomi Klein in her article “Fences of Enclosure: Windows of Possibility” looks at her life and notices a theme of fences. She describes fences as “barriers separating people from previously public resources, locking them away from much needed land and water, restricting their ability to move across borders … even keeping politicians from enacting policies that make sense for the people who elected them.” Klein describes the world as crossing new thresholds of more fences and more enclosure. She continues, “It is also about feeding the market’s insatiable need for growth be redefining as “products” entire sectors that were previously considered as part of “the commons.” These ideas inspired our sleep-out. We felt as if the world was taking place around us and not recognizing our concerns with the status quo. “The commons,” our environment, which is our foundation for life, was being treated as a “product” and the earth and the human way of life is in danger as a result. Our leaders were not responding to these dangers, so we decided to take a stand.

Tents on the Boston Commons, not a sight you see very often. People walking by always asked the same puzzled question, “why are you sleeping outside on the Boston Commons?” We always responded in the same manner, “we are refusing to sleep in our dorm and homes until Massachusetts repowers with 100% clean electricity.” Sleeping out on the Boston Commons was an amazing feeling. Being surrounded by people who also felt the world was in serious danger, created a strong sense of camaraderie. Sitting, playing guitar at two in the morning, it felt as if the city was taking place around us as we just sat and watched, and looked at the stars. By our last sleep-out on the commons, over 25 legislators endorsed our call for 100% clean electricity in the state. Over the course of these seven weeks an incredible threshold was created.

The commons was no longer just a public space. In “Hosting The Divine: The Kolam in Tamilnadu” by Vijaya Nagarajan, the tradition of the kolam in rural India is examined: “the kolam is a design that exemplifies the ritual importance of the threshold; it parts the inside from the outside, the protected and “safe” world of the home from the more dangerous, vulnerable and unguardable world of the outside.” Our tents were the equivalent to the kolam. Just like the kolam is placed on the threshold to establish private space, the tents were placed on the common to fight for a cause, to break down the “fences” that Naomi Klein refers to. In the process, the commons became a welcoming, familiar, inviting environment that was no longer simply a public space, but instead an incredible atmosphere containing various experiences and emotions.

This event also signified many thresholds in my life. It was my first semester in college in a new place where I didn’t know anyone. The sleep-out gave me a connection to this new state I was in and to people who were also interested in spending their time in college fighting to stop climate change. Additionally, despite its name, the Boston Commons, it is illegal to be there after 11. By sleeping on the commons I received five summonses to court for trespassing. While all the charges were dismissed, this was a new threshold in my life because it was the first time I submitted myself to the risk of being arrested. I was leaving my innocent childhood behind and symbolically entering the “criminal” world.

The threshold is a powerful concept. It is defined as a door, but upon further examination it is much more than that. Thresholds are intimately tied with the process of social change. To create social change, spaces need to be created where new ideas flourish and the status quo is affected.  Examining the sleep-out through the concept of the threshold brings new understanding to the event and why it was so powerful, both in its creation of a new space but also in its ability to break down “fences” and create new thresholds for the way the world operates.

From October 24th to December 7th, I was always tired, overwhelmed, and worried. During that time I gave up my bed and basically any free time I had to fight for the future of the earth by asking Massachusetts to repower with 100% clean electricity within a decade. The world is burning and we decided to take a stand. Those seven weeks were probably the craziest I ever had in my life, it was my first semester in college, and ever spare minute I had, was taken up by something. However, I would not give up any of it nor do I wish I had more time to party. Every minute I spent working on the “Leadership Campaign” made Massachusetts one step closer to repowering with 100% clean electricity. All that work is now on the line. Our bill “An Act to Create a Repower Massachusetts Emergency Taskforce” is going through the committee process. We have approximately two weeks to get the bill through the committee process otherwise it might get lost in the budget process that begins in late February. My fellow sleepout participants, please hear this. You just went to court and paid a substantial fine because you believed there was a problem that needed to be addressed. Please remember that belief and let it re-inspire you. The campaign needs your help now, every action and all the time you spent on the campaign is concluding on these next two weeks. We need to call our legislators and get this bill through the committee process ASAP. Call them, visit them, tell everyone to do the same, we need to give them a reason and the support they need to support our bill. These next two weeks could be the most important in determining your future on this planet and whether the next generation will still have one. Please take action, your future depends on it.

Earlier this week, I woke up at an hour I have not seen in a very long time. At 6 am, I got on the commuter rail heading in to Boston to go visit the Boston Municipal Court. This feeling was not new to me, waking up early, being tired and heading in to Boston. It reminded of the seven weeks I spent going in and out of Boston because I believed that our way of life and our planet was in danger because of climate change. This belief, coincidentally, was the reason why I was heading to court: five counts of trespassing on the Boston Commons as part of a seven week sleepout to get Massachusetts to repower with 100% clean electricity. This day in court was not like any other normal day. Today, about 30 individuals who probably never had any other problems with the law and had clean records, were all going before the Assistant Court Magistrate because like me, they faced charges of trespassing on the Boston Commons. The consensus among the people present that day was that any charges they faced under the legal system were nothing compared to the dangers that face the world because of global warming. Therefore, they felt that the charge of trespass was justified, if they could bring attention to the dangers of global warming. Luckily, all the charges were dropped and everyone only had to pay a fine. I say only a fine, but I walked out of court that day 250$ down. But the question I will ask it that, the legal system knows how to deal with people who trespass on the Boston Commons, but does it know how to deal with the thousands of people who could no longer have homes when sea levels rise? or will it know how to deal with the global water shortages that could affect millions of people because of rising temperatures? I know it is easy to dismiss our efforts as radical and naïve but really think about how our system of law and society can handle the problems that global warming could create if we don’t take drastic action now. Would you call people radical because they broke the law to highlight these dangers or would you rather take drastic action now to prevent these problems from happening? I vote for the latter.

I have spent the past week trying to organize some of the Worcester community to call Representative Benienda’s office to ask him to continue his support for “An Act To Create A Repower Massachusetts Emergency Taskforce.” This bill aims to create a taskforce to look at how Massachusetts can achieve 100% renewable energy within a decade. This legislation will set Massachusetts on the path to seriously addressing the problem of climate change. Representative Benienda supported our call for a 100% renewable energy late last year and was very encouraging. I am  proud and humbled by politicians like John Benienda who act upon their ideals and wish to use their positions to actually serve the interests of the many and improve their lives. President Obama talked about a new kind of politics in his State Of The Union Speech last week and Representative Benienda demonstrates this new kind of politician, one who is more concerned with the urgent issues that face our Commonwealth rather than the game of politics and career moves. He has ignored the game of petty politics and political divisions which have inhibited progress for so long. Mr. Benienda I wish to sincerely thank you for you leadership and your willingness to act on your ideals. I will make sure your commitment does not go unnoticed in the Worcester Area.

I have a meeting with Mr. Benienda this Friday February 5th at 11 am where several local constituents who are very active on issues surrounding energy and the environment will be present. At this meeting, we will be asking Mr. Benienda to release “An Act Create A Repower Massachusetts Emergency Taskforce” from the House Committee On Rules. As the chair of this committee, Mr. Benienda has the power to release the bill by himself. I feel very confident that Mr. Benienda will support this important legislation and I look forward to meeting with him.

If you agree with Mr. Benienda on his support of this bill, and live in the Worcester Area, can you call his office at (617) 722-2692 and thank him for his support of “An Act To Create A Repower Massachusetts Emergency Taskforce” and encourage him to continue his support?

Please forward to anyone you know in the Worcester Area
Sincerely,

Noah Greenstein

Worcester Legislative Coordinator

The Leadership Campaign