Yup, I dragged my tired self out to the kick-off meeting of the newly formed 350 Massachusetts Berkshire County node on Monday night. I left my son, my elderly mother, and my doggie home to fend for themselves, which I don’t often do… just because I like to be home when my son is home, because he’s not home much any more, and I love him like crazy. But I went to this meeting because… I love him like crazy, and I want him to have a happy life on a planet that’s not burning up.
So I ventured out to Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, MA, to find out what these great folks are up to. They’re up to a lot. And that’s good. Because continuing to extract and use fossil fuels stinks. It always stank, I guess, but now it stinks big time, because we’re messing things up in so many ways, and we should care because, even as a 110% selfishly motivated species, we’re dooming our own future. Dooming it all to hell.
The evening featured Massachusetts State Senator Ben Downing, who turns out to be a really good dude. Not only does he have a sense of humor about his male-pattern balding, a rare and admirable trait (the humor, not necessarily the balding, though, hey, why not?), but he cares about the future of our earth. He is stepping up for our very own, eensy-weensy precious earth and the creatures who depend on it – a place, by the way, we should cherish and not TRASH every chance we get – and he’s using his position as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy (i.e. Committee on Alotta Big Important Stuff) to do good things, such as introduce Bill S.1225, An Act relative to public investment in fossil fuels. It is “a petition (accompanied by bill, Senate, No. 1225) of Benjamin B. Downing for legislation relative to public investment in fossil fuels.”
I know, I know. If you’re a non-political person like me, the aforementioned sentence makes your brain seize up and go all haywire. But this Bill S.1225 is good. It’s a good thing. Trust me. It says (in 1,002 words, which I shall paraphrase) …The public fund shall sell, redeem, divest or withdraw all publicly-traded securities of each [yucky fossil fuel] company identified in section 2 according to the following schedule: (i) at least 20 per cent of such assets shall be removed from the public fund’s assets under management within 1 year of the effective date of this act… [etcetera, etcetera, very exciting verbiage goes here] … 100 per cent of such assets shall be removed from the public fund’s assets under management within 5 years of the effective date of this act.” That means, if the Bill gets approved, or passed, or whatever they do with bills out there in Boston in those big scary buildings… the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust will have DIVESTED all state employee pension funds from fossil fuel investments by 5 years from the date the bill is passed, or 2019, or thereabouts. REALLY! That’s epic. Massachusetts would be the first state to do this in the entire nation.
There are some very compelling reasons to get behind this bill. On Fossil Free, a website that helps people create and implement divestment campaigns, they list a few humdingers: the burning of fossil fuels is destroying the climate; extreme weather events underline the urgency of the issue; divestment from fossil fuels is a moral issue; investment in fossil fuels presents risk to investors; investment in fossil fuels stunts Massachusetts’ other green efforts. To mention a few.
I and a multitude of others applaud Senator Downing’s true leadership and forward thinking (something that politicians often seem to be allergic to) on this issue of global climate change. It’s nice to live in a state where one’s representatives are rational, reasonable people who trust the world’s greatest scientists when they say we’ve already gone too far, carbon-wise. It’s nice to boast a political representative who doesn’t have his or her head up his or her backside like so many of our nation’s leaders (not all of them… some have their heads plugged firmly in the sand). But it isn’t law yet. And five years is one-quarter of the mere 20 years we have left to bring carbon emissions under control. Yes. Huge challenge. Gotta get on with it. Right now. Mitigating global climate change. It’s hard even to fathom what that means. Yes, friends, we are no longer talking about “avoiding” or “reversing” climate change. We now are stuck with mitigating it. *sigh*
Thus the meeting at BCC, and the Berkshire node, and the climate-action pods that we are building here on earth instead of constructing one-way starships to other planets, a pastime so fashionable of late, but one that doesn’t save nuthin’ here on earth. Although, given the beastly hot temperature of the meeting hall at BCC where we were meeting to talk about nixing fossil fuels and supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy sources AND YET where no one could find anyone who had the power to turn down the damnable HEAT (ah, the irony), we might want to keep a hammer and some nails on hand. Because isn’t that the perfect example of how hard this stuff is? So many millions of buildings, so many billions of people, so many variables, so much to do, no one ever has the key to the thermostat box when you need it?
Nonetheless, we all got excited at the 350 Massachusetts pep rally, hunkered down in our break-out meetings eating crudités and hummus and cookies generously provided by…someone really nice… and a bunch of us, in the heat of the moment and being fairly light-headed from the sauna-like environment in the lecture hall, volunteered to do some stuff, as yet to be determined, to save the planet. Yeah. OK. Just point me in the right direction, Craig Altemose, Executive Director of the Better Future Project, who was the other featured speaker at the meeting, and who had a lot of great things to say and positive, inspiring energy with which to say them, which is more than I can say of myself right now, having sunk into a funk worrying about everything.
No matter! I will attempt to ease my chronic, gnawing, climate-catastrophe-induced stomachache by not eating food packaged in plastic. Another tall order in this world of ours. But never fear. I will ride my imaginary pony down to the Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington, fill up my mini burlap bags with local butter and eggs, organic almond flour, organic dates, organic free-trade bananas, exchange all the money in my wallet for those things, and go home to bake up some gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, pesticide-free, free trade, fun and friendly muffins to eat with my homemade organic yogurt made from milk that hath burst forth very recently from happy, healthy, local Berkshire moo-cows. Now you’re jealous. I’m sorry.
The homemade yogurt is damn sour but so full of healing probiotics it’ll curl your hair. I can always sweeten it with honey. From the poor doomed bees. Oh, right. The bees. Crap. Ouch. My stomach hurts.
And yet I have hope. Do you have hope? Will you join me on my Pollyanna Princess Cruise to the future, on the good ship Flip-Flop Lollipop, where we will sail joyfully amidst weightless herds of winged, white rhino angels under the glow of a charmed African sun? Oh please, do. And rein those beautiful, soon-to-be-extinct creatures down on a climate action meeting or two along the way. ‘Cause we need you.
Photo credit: Swiss photographer John Wilhelm