ASHFIELD — At least 100 people walked through fog, rain, a bit of hail, and sunshine Thursday during the first leg of what is to be a 46-mile, four-day journey from the site of a proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline compressor station in Windsor to another compressor station slated for Northfield, should the proposed Northeast Energy Direct gas pipeline become a reality.
Carrying backpacks and “Stop the Pipeline” signs, marchers piled into the Ashfield Congregational Church for a hot meal prepared by the community. After dinner, they headed to Town Hall for a viewing of “How to Let Go of the World and Love all the Things Climate Can’t Change,” followed by a discussion with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Josh Fox.
The group, which marcher Nancy Braus estimated to have been about 120 people over the course of the day, were of all ages and from many different communities. “There are a number of people that are upset and angry that they want to put in this new fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we really need to be steering the boat to renewable energy,” said Braus, of Putney, Vt. “Even if you don’t oppose the pipeline, a lot of this (natural gas) is for export. That’s another reason why people have been very scared and upset.”
“Attorney General Maura Healey commissioned a study that showed we don’t need the pipeline to meet our energy needs. Basically, we have the technology to get off fossil fuels,” said Cheryl Rose of Dalton. “What we need is the political and social will to do it.”
She added that electricity rate-payers will be charged for the cost of the new pipeline — even if they opt for greener, renewable energy sources.
“It’s basically forcing us to subsidize gas,” she said. “We would rather subsidize solar, or maybe even wind.”
Her husband, physician Henry Rose, said he was marching because he was concerned about the health and safety to fracked gas. “Fracking uses about 600 chemicals, and about 60 are suspected endocrine disruptives or carcinogens,” he said. “They don’t disclose the chemicals. You hear in movies like ‘Gasland’ how water has been contaminated. Once you destroy the water supply, you can’t get it back.”
Dineen O’Rourke, a 20-year-old Hampshire College student, said she planned to walk the full four-day journey. “This walk is a way for us to build power together, so everyone can be motivated, so that, in the future, we can take direct action together.”
When told that many people believe the pipeline is inevitable, O’Rourke said she disagrees. “It’s easy to hear people say this is inevitable, because they’re listening to corporations. Corporate takeover of land protected by the state is not inevitable. We can’t continue to look at all this as inevitable; we have to take action. People are ready to put their bodies on the line.
“As a 20-year-old, I have never lived in a month with colder-than-average temperatures. And most people under 30 can say that,” she said. “Having young people is critical, on the front lines of climate change,” she said.
Near her, a group of about eight college students spent part of their spring break on the march. They came from each of the Five Colleges and Skidmore College.
Pioneer Valley Performing Arts junior Bridget MacNeill, 16, took the afternoon off school, with her parents’ permission, to join the march. “I’m hoping I can convince some friends to come later on,” she said. When asked why she joined, MacNeill said, “I’m just really passionate about the environment, and I felt it was really time that I try.
As the first group of walkers ate casseroles, soup, homemade bread and desserts, a group of five Raging Grannies serenaded them with songs with lyrics tailored to talk about the pipeline. Daria Fiske of Greenfield said the Raging Grannies began in Canada to protest war, and the movement spread into the United States. Among the group was Diane Crowe of Leverett, who came, she said, “because I’m concerned with the big picture.”
Raging Granny Jane Johnson of North Amherst rewrote the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” to “Amazing Place,” a song appreciating the Earth.
Today, the march is to continue from Ashfield, past the cabin built in protest Wednesday on the pipeline route, and on to Shelburne Falls. They will have dinner at the Shelburne-Buckland Community Center, hear a concert by Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir at Cowell Gym, then spend the night at Trinity Church. The march continues Saturday into Greenfield, where there will be a Saturday night rally at St. James Episcopal Church, and then on Sunday, a walk from Unity Park in Turners Falls to Northfield.
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
772-0261, ext. 277