At Boston vigil, little sign of warming
More than a hundred hardy people huddled together for warmth and solidarity in a frigid downtown Boston Friday night to declare their support for a strong and binding climate agreement, whose prospects are being discussed these days in Copenhagen.
The gathering was one of better than a dozen statewide, and one of about 3,000 worldwide, according to Bill McKibben, the leader of the 350 coalition. The number refers to the parts per million of carbon considered by scientific consensus to be safe for the preservation of life as its inhabitants, human and otherwise, know it. The concentration is currently at about 280, and rising by 2 more parts annually.
The vigil was intended to be of the candlelight variety, but conditions favored those who opted for battery-powered candles. The temperature at the Cardinal Cushing Park, a spit of land chosen for its proximity to Sen. John Kerry's office building, was around 25 degrees F, but a wicked wind whipped around and between buildings, making it feel cold enough to bring tears. Feeling didn't fully return to my frozen feet until I'd been back at home for half an hour.
I had shielded my candle in a glass vase oversized to the task, or so I thought; after three relights in the first hour, I surrendered to the natural forces. My other nod to conditions was not to take notes until I returned, not unhappily, to the shelter of my vehicle. (No, I didn't take the T, but yes, at least it's a Prius.) So until I can get a reply from the organizers, I'm a little shy on direct quotes and participant names.
A principle organizer and lead speaker was Vanessa Rule, a leader of Somerville Climate Action who brought a gaggle of her fellow Somervillians, judging from a whoop-out conducted later by Mass. Climate Action Network's Fred Schlicher. Quite a few other nodes of the climate-action group were present as well, including Arlington's, South Shore's, Lexington's, and Newton's.
A student (whose name I didn't get) representing the Leadership Campaign, which wants the state to legally commit to being completely powered by clean electricity by 2020, spoke confidently and movingly while amusing the crowd by reading her text from her iPhone. Her comments were an introduction to state Rep. Will Brownsberger, a sponsor in the House of the campaign's bill. (You may have heard about the students who've been sleeping out on the Common recently, a couple of times being arrested for it, to press for action on climate change; these are them.)
I've heard Brownsberger speak three times are climate-action events in the past six weeks, and he has been impressive each time. Friday night, he hit the target squarely from his opening gambit, which was to compare alcoholics with all those who are hooked on petroleum. It's about addiction and denial, he said, and how much more apt could he have been?
Drunks don't want to see the damage they're doing, because the notion of changing their actions is just too big. And that's how it is with Big Petro and most of the rest of us.
Another speaker affectingly referenced the words of Mohamed Axam Maumoon, the 15-year-old climate delegate from the Maldive Islands, who asks, “On the basis that you know what you are doing is wrong and you can see that the victim is begging for mercy … would you commit murder?”
The final speaker was David Pomerantz, a field organizer for Greenpeace, who urged those gathered to add a little action to their stances by leaving voicemails for Todd Stern, the US special envoy on climate change, urging passage of strong treaty in Copenhagen. He had in mind a group action, an immediate action, even at the price of people having to take one hand out of their pockets to make the calls, right there. Dave's a persuasive guy, so I placed my call, and after waiting up to a minute for the call to go through, presumably because all the cells were filled by ... us, I reached Stern's voicemail and left my request. I'm sure he'll be getting back to me.
I doubt the rally changed anyone's mind, for any fool who'd stand out on a cold, dark evening to take a symbolic stance is probably pretty committed already. I was, however, convinced forever that holding a candlelight vigil in a wind storm is a pretty tough assignment.