John Mendizabal / Gavel Media

“People Not Profit” Rings Throughout Boston Common

On March 25, 2022, climate advocates from around the city of Boston gathered outside of the Massachusetts State House to call for local and national action while emphasizing the theme of “People Not Profit.” A number of groups joined Boston Climate Action Network (BCAN) to plead for local preservation of the Crane Ledge Woods, as well as mitigation of the influence of New England’s electrical powerhouse, ISO.

Hailey Moll, BCAN’s communication lead, outlined the purpose of the event: “We are taking local steps, highlighting work here that embodies that meaning of people, not profit.” The day was labeled as a global climate strike that featured protests throughout the world. Each group advocated for their own local change that would coalesce into a massive climate change movement. 

This particular strike focused on two efforts in and around Boston to quell the effects of climate-destroying and profit-seeking companies. The Crane Ledge Woods, a 24-acre unprotected forest, is under threat as a company is looking to develop rental properties on the land. The space is the largest unprotected urban wild in the city of Boston, and it acts as a place of tranquility for residents of the surrounding neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Roslindale. BCAN and other protestors called for a line-item change to set aside $24 million to buy the Crane Ledge Woods and to deem them as protected land.

Moll described the importance of this plea: “It’s an equity issue because it’s owned by a Black Christian Church, and it's in an area that is a primarily BIPOC community, so it creates better access to the outdoors for those who may not have access to green space.” This issue is more than just one of the climate: it also affects local minority communities and the one urban wild they have left.

The other most pertinent issue to the protestors in Boston was the overwhelming authority of New England’s ISO. This company essentially controls the electricity in the New England region, and it is working on expanding its efforts to use fossil fuels instead of renewable energy.

“We are asking Governor Baker and his administration to fix the grid [and] to stop preventing renewable energy from coming into New England… and to create more local energy projects,” Moll asserted. Fossil fuel usage is one of the largest detriments to the world and its climate, so expanding the use of renewable energy sources is crucial to our survival.

Among the many attendees ranging from college students to environmental professionals, one of the most striking groups was that of Lawrence Public School’s Climate Action Team. A small group of 6th and 7th graders led by teacher Justin Brown brought posters and passionate voices to Boston Common. 

“We’re here, we’re really excited,” Brown said, “and for a number of students this is their first large-scale action.” Lawrence’s team, while holding smaller-scale events, has never experienced something like this. Previously, the club raised over $500 for Boston’s Speak for the Trees and has lobbied for action in their school library, Brookline town meetings, and even at the State House. The students were clearly excited to be there, one of them strongly asserting with a smile, “we want to change the world before it changes us.”

The rally then began with an introduction from BCAN’s advocacy director, Sophie Cash. Emphasizing the day’s theme and universal importance, Cash stated that “centering racial and economic justice is the only way to have a successful movement for climate justice.” Setting the stage for the rest of the speakers, the crowd erupted in chants of “People Not Profit.”

Saahithi Achanta, a Boston University student and BCAN board member, addressed the crowd, mentioning the common struggles endured by all who search for climate justice.“No matter if you’re from BU, BC, Harvard, MIT, Suffolk, anything, it’s a common sentiment felt between students and all people in Boston,” she remarked. The people tasked with representing their constituents are not accurately doing so, focusing on the wants and needs of large corporations over those of the general public.

Additional speakers from the Crane Woods Coalition and 350 Mass outlined the future of our climate and the consequences we will face if action is not taken. If the Crane Ledge Woods is built on, every community in Boston will feel its effect. People will search for other green spaces, demonstrating the utter lack of accessible and reliable urban wild areas. Also, the Peabody Peaker Plant runs the risk of exacerbating the negative effects of fossil fuels on our climate. The plant, used when electricity is needed most, runs on oil and gas, causing a massive spike in detrimental fuel usage. As a state that aspires to be carbon neutral by 2050, Massachusetts does not seem to be keeping that promise.

The protest reached its finale with the words of Judith Foster, founder of the H.E.R.O. Nurturing Center. She described the universal pertinence of climate justice by saying, “the word ‘environment’ cuts through all race, demographics, political sphere… you can’t segregate the air, people!” These climate change issues are something that we all face whether directly or indirectly. Therefore, it matters what each and every one of us does to try and make a change in any effective way. 

“Japan has done it, Canada has done it, and lastly, former President Obama recently said, when referring to our national parks, ‘it’s our shared birthright,’” Foster proclaimed. What, then, is everyone waiting for? We all wish to immerse ourselves in the natural beauty of the world around us, so why are some still reluctant to take action and make change?

Foster ended her speech demanding climate justice in order to “create a tomorrow where every kid, and I'll inject every adult, can safely restore their mental and physical health outdoors.” The crowd roared with cheers and applause, hopeful of the future ahead.

Whether through posters, chants, songs, poems, or speeches, the message of climate justice and “People Not Profit,” hung in the air outside of the Massachusetts State House. The crowds dispersed with an optimistic and sanguine attitude, hoping that those words would remain. 

Check out BCAN’s Climate Action Toolkit to learn more about what you can do to help curb climate change.

Spends too much time on crossword puzzles. Can make a mean chocolate chip pancake. Proponent of eating the casing on brie.

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