Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Risking Arrest on Aug 31st

Henry David Thoreau

Two wrongs make a right. Sometimes. 

The West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline is wrong for our common climate and so wrong for the West Roxbury neighborhood it intersects. These two wrongs make it the right time for no business as usual and civil disobedience.

Our West Roxbury neighbors have been fighting this pipeline for over two years. Residents have engaged all available means of regulatory and political action, including ongoing acts of principled nonviolent civil disobedience, which have led to over 175 arrests.

And now they are resisting the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. Boston's Mayor Walsh, and the entire Boston City Council are opposed to this pipeline and ruled against it.  The Commonwealth’s Attorney General's Office did a study and determined that we do not need the extra gas.

And yet? Spectra, a Texas-based, fossil-fuel, pipeline corporation has, with the help of a FERC, a five member board that is the US federal agency regulating the transmission and wholesale sale of electricity and natural gas and a Federal judge have taken Boston land by eminent domain.

Today, this dangerous, 750 psi pipeline is almost completed. What does this say about our democracy? The diminished ability of our democratically elected officials to save us from the depredations of corporations is almost as alarming as the climate and public health issues raised by the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. The time to act is now !

What's the deal with the "psi" numbers?

The West Roxbury Lateral pipeline is built to carry 750 psi of gas under residential streets. The psi of gas coming into your stove is 0.25 psi - one quarter of a pound per square inch. The psi of gas running under your street is about 22 psi. So, 750 psi is 34 times the pressure of a gas main that can already turn a few homes into a crater. So wrong for a neighborhood. Not that it is right for any place on the good green earth. And the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline ends with a metering and regulation station across the street from an active blasting quarry, West Roxbury Crushed Stone at 10 Grove Street. Sheesh. You can't make this stuff up!

National Grid, who have contracted this pipeline should fix all the gas leaks before building any new fossil fuel infrastructure! There are 1,462 gas leaks in Boston alone! 15,749 state wide! Check out this map and leak finder here. Best of all, we pay for the leaked gas! Natural gas is neither natural or clean. Fracking is an eco-disaster and methane gas is a super pollutant that adds exponentially to our greenhouse gas emissions. In signing the Paris Accords of November 2015 the US agreed that we would:
  1.  Hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
  2. Increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
  3.  Make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development."
In April 2016 a high pressure Spectra gas line explosion in Salem, PA incinerated 42 acres. In  2010, in San Bruno, CA, a  PG&E gas line explosion turned a residential neighborhood into an inferno, killing 8 and destroying 38 homes. The pressure in that pipeline? 400 psi. The predicted West Roxbury "incineration zone" ( this is an industry term) is 30 city blocks.  

A rather large nutshell

So that, in a rather large nutshell, is why I am putting my body in the way of heavy equipment to stop this crazy project and to do my part to halt climate change. All that and, I hope to alert the general populace to the reality that the climate crisis is here and we need to get seriously active. The mainstream media refuses to connect the dots of the recent weather extremes to climate change. As George Monbiot of the Guardian, said last week, the climate crisis is here. By getting arrested I am asking our elected officials and everyone I know, to step it up! We need to keep up with climate reality and take sustained, strategic action.

Eight months ago in Paris, 177 nations promised to try to ensure the world’s average temperature did not rise by more than 1.5C above the pre-industrial level. Already it has climbed by 1.3C – faster and further than almost anyone predicted. In one respect, the scientists were wrong. They told us to expect a climate crisis in the second half of this century. But it’s already here.

Mary Boyle is my hero.

But back in the day, Henry David Thoreau was the poster boy for civil disobedience. His legacy of CD was used to bring legitimacy to a movement that in the late 60s and early 70s was characterized as being peopled by "drug-crazed-unwashed-hippies." That image was used to undermine a large, broad-based movement to undo the military-industrial complex that included the straight-edged and clean BerrigansMuhammad AliDr. Benjamin Spock and Martin Luther King. This image washing was where as dead-white-guy Thoreau was useful and in reviewing The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail   the NYTimes said ".... its protagonist, though of the 19th century... speaks to today's concerns: an unwanted war in another land, civil disobedience, the interdependence of man and nature, education, the role of government and the governed." from Juan Coles blog

"When President Polk imposed a poll tax to pay for his Mexican War, Henry David Thoreau declined to pay. He had authored, in the first year of the war (1846), a work he entitled “Civil Disobedience,” staking out the right of individuals to decline to obey unjust laws. Thoreau went to jail for a night over the stance he took on the poll tax, until someone paid his bail. There is an anecdote that his friend, the essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, came to see him in jail. Emerson exclaimed, “What are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “Waldo, the question is what you are doing out there?” Thoreau believed that in times of an unjust law and an unjust war, honorable persons will likely be in jail."

But then Thoreau was a misanthrope and said to have been a bit of prickly fella. Not a guy you’d have coffee with-unless you were buying. For him. A bit of a free-loader. He is no longer my role model but I am well aware that like Henry, my privilege and good fortune allows me to risk arrest. I am an old, middle class, white woman.  And would never ask anyone why they are not getting arrested. Still, I appreciate this chance to be my friend’s proxy in this action.  And to tell you why I am getting arrested and what you can do support. 

Mary Boyle

On Twitter, Mary Boyle is the "Mary" behind the #standwithMary hashtag with the intent to #stopspectra. She describes herself as a "grey-haired woman with a bun" yet she has a Twitter handle. And, she knows how to use it!
"I saw my neighbors begin a vigil against this Spectra pipeline project on a Monday night in December of 2014 and thought -yes! This is what you do." - Mary Boyle

Mary Boyle will be celebrated on her birthday, as she vigils with friends old and new, this Wednesday, August 31, 2016. Ms. Boyle has been vigiling every morning that construction is done Mon. to Sat. since the Texas-based Spectra Energy won a lawsuit against the City of Boston and took land by eminent domain. When Spectra first broke ground in Boston, in September 2015 for their 750psi, fracked gas pipeline through her residential neighborhood and next to an actively blasting quarry, Mary Boyle, a 40 year-long resident of West Roxbury, was there in opposition with signs and waving to passers-by.

"It is important to me that injustice be named. Spectra has decided that my neighborhood can be a sacrifice zone." - Mary Boyle
For two years she had been researching, petitioning, meeting, making phone calls and organizing. She did everything one could do to stop a very bad thing from happening.

"I have always been horrified by the harm caused by fracking. I had great sympathy for those closely affected by it, far away in Pennsylvania. I never thought I would be fighting that same fight, right on my street." - Mary Boyle

Mary is a retired educator and at group orientations her explanations of the intricate timeline and legal issues surrounding the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline are thorough, articulate and powerful.
When you hear her speak it is clear that her sense of justice in all things big and small makes her shy away from being an "icon" or a figurehead. There is no false modesty in her disclaimers as Mary readily acknowledges the support and inspiration of her neighbors and fellow activists.

"Even if the work looks like it is almost done, I have no choice but to point to it and call it the outrage that it is."   - Mary Boyle

Although Mary demonstrated for civil rights and against the Vietnam war many years ago, this campaign as a local activist in an environmental concern, is a first.  Mary Boyle knows she is "one in a number" who stand up against injustice. She knows that it is a winning strategy to be inclusive and build community.  Mary has stood as a witness every day of construction since September 2015 - over 200 days! 

"I don't know that I could do what I have done without the folks who vigil with me."- Mary Boyle

from left to right: ML, Mary Boyle, the author and Andrea Doremus
 "There are still steps that can be taken to stop Spectra." - Mary Boyle

So please get the word out to all you know. And check out the websites  and to see how you can support this local struggle that engages us in so many of the important issues of our time; climate change, democracy and justice.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Storytelling - Summer 2016!

With some fellow pirates at Boston Seafood Festival.
Wow. This summer has been a wonderful and crazy, busy time. I have been lucky enough to have work all summer long as a storyteller in many different venues and in several capacities.

The summer started with me telling stories as a pirate for  In full costume ( so hot!) I visited beaches and sailed to the Harbor Islands all the while telling stories that reflected the rich history of the harbor and the life of an early 18th century woman pirate, Mary Read.  The amazing activities available to the people of the Commonwealth on their beaches in and around our harbor still blows me away. I am honored to be even a small a part of it. As I travel from beach to beach, I witness people engaged with their common resource through kayaking, fishing, swimming, surfing and all manner of environmentally sound programming with natural life.

Wollaston Beach
All this activity peopled the shores as I told and exchanged stories as part of the Better Beaches summer crew of SaveTheHarbor/Save the, Boston's premier, non-profit public interest harbor advocacy organization. Save the Harbor is directed by Bruce Berman, who leads and is supported by thousands of citizens, as well as scientists, civic, corporate, cultural and community leaders in a mission to restore and protect Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Bay, and the marine environment and share them with the public for everyone to enjoy. This summer I visited and performed at beaches from Lynn to Hull and saw a lot of the great beaches that are closest to Boston in South Boston and Dorchester.  I buried treasure, shared booty, told riddles, taught some handy knots and other piratical "skills."

At the TADPOLE Playground with
As I have for the past 17 summers I have been a storyteller with's Storymobile. Here is an excerpt from a blog about the Storymobile experience contributed by OWD summer intern Nick Zaffiro:
" On the Tadpole Playground in Boston Common, a mass of rambunctious, chatty, and excited kids have gathered. There are over 600 kids in attendance – a small event for the Tadpole where the Storymobile can attract upwards of 1,000 attendees. Why are they here? Why are they so excited?
Stories! And books, too.
Anyone might be suspicious that books or stories could wrestle the attention of a sea of pre-schoolers crowded around an outdoor playground. But storyteller Tony Toledo removes those doubts. In long, flowing hair and floral Hawaiian shirt, he stands poised before a microphone at the bottom of the park’s grassy slope – a natural amphitheater whose trees provide cool shelter from the hot July morning.
The kids are arranged by group, each designated with the vibrant color of a camp or program. One little girl looks absentmindedly at the pond, until Tony Toledo takes the mike. A call and response brings everyone (kids, parents, camp counselors, passersby) to life and their focus to him, including the distracted girl.
“Story time!” he shouts.
“Story time!” the crowd responds, the little voices of the children coming together.
Then Tony begins his story, performing the “Coyote Song” from memory. Tony yelps whenever the coyote has his tail stepped on – the coyote’s true song – and it elicits an infectious laughter from the crowd....
Storymobile events aren’t simply about gathering and entertaining children; instead, the program aims to inspire kids to be creative and imagine. That mindset is the bridge to literacy, which the program promotes by giving books to every child who attends.
“[The Storymobile] provides high quality literacy programming to low-income children throughout Boston in the summer, when children are most at risk,” says Katie Sullivan, who oversees ReadBoston’s Storymobile program..."
This wonderful work takes me all over the great city of Boston. The program features free storytelling every weekday for 6 weeks in day care centers, summer camps, libraries and parks. READ BOSTON Storymobile: Professional storytellers perform and each child gets a new, high quality, picture book. I was one of several storytellers performing in 50 sites all over City of Boston every weekday and some evenings too!

In the field, at the dig of a pit house in Cortez, Colorado. Sleeping Ute Mountains are in the background

In mid-July, I was in Colorado for an amazing 1 week storytelling adventure at with 10 young women from LA on an archeological citizen scientist team.  It was my first time ever in the western US and my first time on an archeological dig. Among many amazing experiences, we heard stories from a Zuni storyteller and I taught personal storytelling to the teens on our team. I had a wonderful co-facilitator and am hugely thankful to Laura St.Andrews for her kind support.  Nichole Cirillo of Earthwatch created the program and she deserves a shout out as well. The teens were delightful, just the best group ever! The experience deserves a whole blog to itself. Also in July, I was honored to be part of a wedding ceremony on beautiful Chebeague Island where I was the officiant/storyteller.

All in all, a very rewarding, super busy, summer.