This past spring break (Spring 2016), the Environmental and Social Justice Club (ESJC) made a trip to western Massachusetts in solidarity with the Sugar Shack Alliance and dozens of other grassroots organizations to march for three days along the proposed route of the Kinder Morgan NED fracked gas pipeline to express our opposition to the destructive fossil fuel industry. This was part of a four-day march event called Taking Steps To A Renewable Future. Eight current and former Sterling College students (Christine Colascione, David Przepioski, Tofowa Pyle, Jolwes Phanord, Gina Calitri, Nick Trapeni, Briel Gibson, and Timbo Maddalena-Lucey) attended the march and spent three days walking, singing, chanting, eating, and sleeping alongside other fracktivists from all over Northern New England, as well as networking with a number of college groups and regional groups such as: Climate Action Now! Western MA (CAN), Divest UMass, Williams College, Hampshire College, Marlboro College, the Climate Disobedience Center, the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, 350 MA, Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition, and many more.
The press coverage was well organized and a number of Sterling students made it into the front pages of newspapers like The Recorder (Franklin County and North Quabbin regional paper), The Independent (Shelburne Falls), and a local news station broadcast (22 News). Morale was high throughout the march, and the number of walkers were steadily gaining from the ~100 that left Windsor on Thursday (3/17) to ~300 leaving Shelburne Falls on Saturday (3/19). Each day, the march would end with a live show from climate activist groups and filmmakers like Josh Fox and Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir. The Sterling crew was a strong motivational component to the march and everyone had a chance to share pipeline songs and chants, stories, learn about upcoming movements, and generally keep up morale !
Another stop along the march was at the residence of a local Ashfield landowner named Will Elwell (originally of Walden, MA) where, just weeks before, Will and a group of community members constructed a post-and-beam replica of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden cabin as an act of civil disobedience in opposition of the proposed Kinder Morgan NED pipeline. The cabin was constructed on a piece of his land that was slated to be directly in the path of the proposed route. Mr. Elwell stated, “I wanted to do something that would show my discontent with the proposed pipeline, but in a creative and beautiful way. And I wanted to occupy the proposed pipeline pathway and stop the project. This is an important and tangible symbol, and represents a place of resistance which many, many people can now identify and help occupy.” He continued by saying if and when the time came, activists could occupy this symbol of resistance to push back against the pipeline company. The march made a stop at this cabin on the way to Shelburne Falls on Friday (3/18), and Mr. Elwell spoke a few moving words from Thoreau’s chapter on civil disobedience, and then the structure was blessed by a local indigenous woman in a beautiful ceremony that left a lasting impression on the marchers that day.
I have been co-facilitating the ESJC for the past two years at Sterling, alongside some very active and dedicated environmental stewards that seek to take their passions and convictions to the streets and to the policy makers to show that we, as beings of this planet, do not wish to see its destruction befallen in the name of corporate capitalism and economic gain. As this is my last semester as a student of Sterling College, my intention is to make it the most active semester for the ESJC in hopes of inspiring and empowering more students coming in to take over when I leave. This march was an incredible opportunity to build solidarity with our neighboring states (and home states for some of us) in the name of CLEAN WATER and FRESH AIR!