We can do it, you know. We can get there. We can have it all. The Third Millennium AD can be the green millennium, the time in which we learn to live as responsible human beings at last. There is no law, natural or divine, which demands that the world we live in become poorer, harsher, and more dangerous. If it continues to become that way, it is only because we do it ourselves.
—Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl
I’ve long wished to join the series of actions at the West Roxbury lateral pipeline in Boston, which often includes civil disobedience. The actions attempt to stop a pipeline being laid thru land taken by eminent domain. The 5-mile pipeline is part of a 1,100-mile pipeline being built by Spectra Energy of Houston, Texas, and its subsidiary, Algonquin Gas Transmission in Waltham, Massachusetts, to carry natural gas from Pennsylvania. Some claim it will transport gas extracted by hydraulic fracking further south in the States for sale in Canada. This presents a multiple whammy.
- The process of fracking pollutes water and releases methane, making it allegedly more destructive to the earth than coal.
- While much of the pipe is under roads, causing little inconvenience except during construction, some pipe I suspect is under useful land snatched by the law, such as home and school lands.
- The gas in this high pressure line could explode and destroy buildings and lives along the route. In addition, as a final seal of potential doom, one stretch is next to a quarry where explosives are used to mine the rock.
- It increases the potential for gas leaks, already a major problem not only in Boston but widespread in the nation.
- It encourages more use of fossil fuel rather than emphasizing renewable energy.
To be convincing in this article, I would need to research and corroborate all these claims. This would include reading counter claims about the economic benefits and safety of the project. Sufficient for now, I reference this article about the debate:
The action itself on Saturday, June 25, 2016, billed as running from 10 to noon, lasted until about 3 pm. It consisted of a rally along the pipeline route, opposite the quarry and the compressor station also under construction; a march of about 1/2 mile to the pipe laying site, blocked by a police line; another march of about the same length to the other end of the police cordon with a short vigil along a main road, Washington Street; and then some unscripted but highly anticipated activity.
During all this, a smaller group of about 10 people who were prepared for arrest with their support people sniffed their way thru the warren of small country-like roads to the mid-point of the project. Searching for a way past the police who otherwise would block them, suddenly 3 men from this contingent who expected to be arrested, darted down the road past the police, onto the site, and soon were in the 10 ft deep ditch dug by a huge Caterpillar hydraulic mining shovel preparing to lay the pipe.
Police hurried into the ditch, extracted and arrested the three young men, handcuffed them, and brought them to a curb where they sat awaiting the police van to be delivered to the West Roxbury police station.
Where was I in all this, I the ever-seeing, or hoped to be the ever-seeing photographer, trying to be in all places at all times, hovering over the action, omniscient, omnipresent, a form of photographer god or angel, free to pass thru police lines with my magical fantastic credentials? I had been at the far end of the construction site, unable to see much about what happened at the site, casually photographing police juxtaposed with cranes and trucks behind them, when I noticed a flurry of activity. This included the only person with a large video camera and tripod. He must know something that I don’t; why else would he race away with all that heavy gear? I thought. So I followed, wondering whether I was about to photograph something important, or just go for a futile self-tour of West Roxbury.
I call myself (usually not openly) an “opportunistic photographer,” that is, I often exploit opportunities presented to me rather than plan my work. Entering Gaza in 2003 for the first time is one example. I failed twice to gain entrance and then happened upon an international NGO thru a friend and slipped in with them. Or, also in Gaza, I was working with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) when they told me they planned a trip to one of the most heavily destroyed parts of the Strip, called Zeitoun (the Arabic word for olive tree) to deliver donated winter clothing. I accompanied them and made nearly a day’s worth of photos. Waking up that morning I doubt I knew where I’d be later in the day. That is “opportunistic photography.” Or maybe a better word is “spontaneous,” guided by my muses which I pray to and thank every day.
So I found myself virtually the only photographer at the most appropriate location to show the three young men, later a fourth, questioned by the police, searched, and stuffed into the police van. All close up. I did however miss their drop in visit to the ditch, trying to block construction, and the police response. This for other photographers, other opportunistic or simply lucky human beings with cameras. I do not work alone.
The action continued. By the same backwoods route used by my predecessors who were arrested and their supporters,the group and I found a way to join others prepared for arrest. This included an older woman in a wheelchair, waiting for a long period under hot sun. Altho our numbers had shrunk, from about 90, we 30 or so constituted an ongoing vigil, observing the ditch making and pipe laying, pieces of an evolving national labyrinth which could contribute to disaster not only of this neighborhood but of the planet itself.
As I write this, today (June 28, 2016) on Democracy Now a few minutes ago Amy Goodman broadcast a troubling report about extreme weather in the United States.
From Aravinda Ananda, arrested with her husband Joseph at the demonstration on June 28, 2016:
Joseph and I did our business owners’ action earlier in the morning. They arrested Joseph immediately after crossing the police tape. I sat by the trench for maybe 3 minutes before they had me cuffed and taken away. No construction stopped.
30-40 people had come from western MA to risk arrest, but the police liaison made a deal with the police – protestors would approach the police line and construction would stop for an hour or something and there would be no arrests. I think they only ended up stopping construction for 40 minutes, but there were no other arrests.
We were in custody from about 9:30 until perhaps 3:00. They brought us to precinct 5 and we were in a holding cell for about 4 hours while they booked us. Then they brought us to lockup/the courthouse, and two holding cells later we went before a judge who offered us the same deal all other pipeline protesters have been offered thus far: to convert the charges from criminal to civil ones so long as we are not arrested again in this same protest in the next 6 months. So our journey through the court system may or may not be over.
…I offered some Work That Reconnects practices including “bowing to our adversaries” at a conference two weekends ago at Pendle Hill on “Powerful Faith-Based Organizing for Climate Justice.” I have been feeling that piece a lot recently. Before the action yesterday, I had to pass through the construction site twice in search of a bathroom. I made a point of saying good morning to all of the construction workers and police officers. On the way back from the bathroom the sidewalk was closed, but an officer escorted me through and we chatted about the rain – I told him how much I appreciated it for gardening. I said “wow, this is a big project” (about the construction). He said “yea, some protesters are not happy about it.” I didn’t tell him I was one of them… Maybe next time.
“Should Massachusetts Oppose Further Natural Gas Pipeline Construction In The State? Boston Globe South” by Scott Gustafson, organizer, Laborers International Union of North America (May 2016)
“Unitarian Universalists fight to stop Boston-area gas pipeline” by Elaine McArdle, March 14, 2016
Watch out for those Quakers! 20 arrested blocking construction of Boston #fracked gas pipeline #StopSpectra #350mass (by Bill McKibbon, June 2016)
From Friends Meeting at Cambridge, at a recent pipeline action