Climate-crusading millennials write hopeful letters to future
Hours before a controversial so-called “free speech” rally on the Common consumed so much media attention earlier this month, a group of 75 demonstrators assembled on the same Saturday to bury their environmental fury in hopes of sprouting solutions in turbulent times.
Formed primarily by young people who are concerned about climate change, the Sunrise Movement has been working with related groups like Better Future Project and 350 Mass to hold Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (among others) environmentally accountable. Partly inspired by the actions taken by President Trump to pull out of global agreements to combat climate change, the group’s mission on the Common was to compile a time capsule reflecting their ideas, worries, and observations.
“This is a community-oriented event,” said Brian Stilwell, a 30-year-old Sunrise Movement member. “[It’s] reflective of the world we want to build that is just and fair for everyone.”
In what’s become something of a tradition in the climate justice movement, people of all ages, ranging from middle school to senior citizens, added their “letters to the future” to the capsule. Some brought artifacts—buttons, tchotchkes—symbolizing things they love that may not be here in 50 years if action is not taken to protect the planet.
In tandem with people in other public places all across the continent, those participating in the dedication took to writing stations where locals could pen letters in real time. There was also a photo booth, where images were recorded for a digital archive, plus a slate of speakers of all ages who spoke about their experiences with climate change. Following words from participants ranging from Grady McGonagill of Elders Climate Action to Newton South High School activist Daniel Abdulah, Sunrise Movement members led the group in songs about the fight on hand.
Emily Hart, a 29-year-old high school science teacher from Somerville and volunteer at the event, said she was deeply moved by some of the keepsakes submitted by young people. One middle schooler brought a milkweed pod, an item commonly eaten by migrating butterflies. If the climate continues to rise, such pods will not only become more scarce, but there will also be an impact on the food resources available for various animals.
Danny Brian LeClaire came to Boston to attend the counterprotest against “free speech” provocateurs later in the afternoon, but he stopped by the Sunrise pop-up to add his own note plus a few relevant items. LeClaire has ardently protested the Dakota Access Pipeline, and contributed a button reading “mni wiconi,” which means “water is life” in Lakota.
“You can’t live without water,” LeClaire said. “You can live without oil. Oil is a luxury.”
By the time you read this, the capsule will be buried at the Langdon Farm in Roxbury. Along with several other capsules that were submerged all around the country, it will not be reopened until November of 2067.
In the meantime…
The goal of the time capsule project was not only to write, symbolically, into the future. Instead, demonstrators intended to send a message that Mass politicians will be held accountable if they reject policies to boost renewable energy. Sunrise Movement members invited the governor to stand alongside them and to commit to imposing a ban on all future fossil fuel infrastructure. It hardly came as a surprise that Baker, who is reluctant to remove natural gas from his energy planning, sat out the event. According to Stilwell, by standing on the opposite side of such issues, the governor by default stands with fossil fuel executives, President Trump, and everybody else who is responsible for putting the future at risk.
To help push its agenda along, Sunrise Movement also drafted an executive order for Baker to sign, which would make him promise to protect the environment. It wasn’t their first rodeo; for two months leading up to their delivering said order, group members participated in stand-ins on Beacon Hill. According to Stilwell and others, while Baker talks about proactively preventing climate change, he hasn’t backed his words up with action. So far, the governor has not responded to their efforts.
“We will be coming back in January bigger, louder, stronger, and more powerful,” Stilwell said. “[We’re going to] keep that message going and to try to push Gov. Baker to do the right thing.”