Rally for Action on Climate Change at Governors’ Meeting, TODAY 12:15pm

The governors of 30 states, and also Elon Musk and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are meeting in downtown Providence. Let’s tell them we need urgent, swift, effective action to reduce carbon emissions. Meet us at the corner of Sabin and Mathewson Streets (across from the convention center)–look for the big blue banner–at 12:15pm today. Details here.

This is the banner we’ll carry–a Portable Sea Level for 2100.

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No LNG in PVD: Public Information Session Thursday 7/15

National Grid wants to build a liquid natural gas processing facility in a flood zone, near the homes of people who are already suffering from environmental injustice, and increasing Rhode Island’s commitment to fossil fuel infrastructure. The people who live near the proposed site–Fields Point, Allens Avenue and South Providence–have been fighting to keep National Grid from building this facility.

National Grid, under community pressure, has agreed to hold a meeting about this on Thursday, 7/13, 6-9pm–but is holding it at the police station, where many people in the community most at risk from this project feel unsafe.

It would be very good to show up and show strong, numerous community objection to more fossil fuel infrastructure, even if it’s not in “your” neighborhood. If you are one of the people who has spoken to me about feeling helpless in the face of climate change–this is a concrete thing you can do to help there be less of it, and to stand with your neighbors.

You can RSVP here and learn more about why Providence doesn’t need or want this facility. Hope to see some of you on Thursday.

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Providence Energy Fair AND in Burnside Park!

I’m doing double shifts with the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth today.

The first one is 10-1 at the Providence Energy Fair, where you can also sign up for energy audits of your living quarters (I think renters can do this, not just property owners?), learn about renewable energy options in Rhode Island, help keep unnecessary and dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure out of the state with the Burrillville Land Trust and No LNG in PVD, and eat things from trucks. (My feelings about food trucks are mixed, but I’ll probably get a sandwich.) There’s childcare available for the talks and workshops.

The second one is my ordinary shift downtown in Burnside Park, across from Kennedy Plaza, 2-6pm. If anyone feels like coming and being an audience plant–that is, standing and talking to me to demonstrate that other people can do that, too–I’d be very grateful.

Actual History: Refusal 10 (May Day)

May Day as International Workers’ Day has its origins in the Haymarket Affair of 1886, a double display of state violence: on May 3rd, the third day of a general strike for an eight-hour work day, police protecting strikebreakers fired into a crowd of striking workers. At a mass meeting the following day, someone threw a bomb into a group of arresting officers, and the ensuing police raids and arrests ended with eight men sentenced to death. The state hanged four and later pardoned two; one took his own life in prison. Meanwhile, labor organizers continued their work, and in 1889 the Second International declared May 1st International Workers’ Day.

I also want to talk about another day in May.

Starting–but more about that in a minute–on May 1st, 1867, striking workers in Chicago shut down the economy of the city for a week to close loopholes in a law calling, already for the eight-hour workday. Industries in and around Chicago at that time included meatpacking, garment manufacturing, shipping, lumber processing, iron molding–so we can guess that fewer components were poured and fewer cuffs and collars sewn, that cargo ships sat at their moorings and that meat rotted on the packing lines. A week of people earning no money, drawing from the strike fund if they could. A week in which a city that bragged about how much it could produce, how fast it grew, couldn’t hold onto that pride and had–if only for a week, after which the strike collapse–to admit who made that pride possible.

The strike itself started on May 1st, but the work of making it possible started long before: in conversations, in the nurturing of loyalties, in meetings, in the gathering of resources, in the asking of questions, in the distribution of knowledge, in arguments, in shared meals, in the washing of clothes and the tending of children, in corners, in quiet, under the cover of machine sounds.

The fight for the eight-hour workday is a fight to be owned less than entirely. It says: we won’t let you use us up. It says: we are more than fuel.

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My attention keeps turning to the failures to refuse in the May Day origin story: the police who, on May 3rd, didn’t have to but chose to fire into a crowd of striking workers. The jury. The hangman. Someone would probably have punished them, or tried to, if they refused, but that’s not identical with not having a choice. Examine your promises: who do they require you to hurt?

The May Day march in Providence starts at 3pm today, in Burnside Park. I’ll be walking with the Climate Justice and Just Transition bloc. Come too.

Actual History: Refusal 6

Last night, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance called for a work stoppage–no JFK Airport dropoffs or pickups between 6 and 7pm–in solidarity with people being detained via the president’s “Muslim Ban”. Here is their full statement.

This is how we need to act, and how we can act, together.

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If you have money to share, you can share it with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, or with the National Lawyers Guild, who provide legal observation and monitoring to protect protestors’ rights.

If you live in Rhode Island and have time to spare, come to the State House today.

Here’s a list of protests in other places in the US.

Alternate History: Refusal 5

The next day, truckers spoke over the radios, recalculating their routes, passing the word along. Air traffic controllers refused to let planes land. No one who drove a truck or flew a plane or ran container shipping in the Gulf would bring any concrete or rebar or wire or cable or steel or cement or construction equipment or surveillance electronics to anywhere at all in California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas.

Companies in these states that made or used or sold these materials and tools made haste to sell their products, at a discount, to people and companies building anywhere else–other states, overseas. Ann Arbor and Vladivostok both took big deliveries of cranes, for some reason, and a lot of materials went to Haiti and Georgia.

People who worked large-scale construction in those states knew that the government would probably bring in prison labor anyway, but just in case, they went to visit relatives in other states if they could, or picked up work far from home. The unions passed the word along.

On the border, men with guns and men in suits stood with no power to move or build anything more than a handful of dirt.

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Rhode Islanders can see if Dorcas International needs volunteer help. Anyone can call their city’s or town’s mayor and ask what they are going to do to protect and accommodate their immigrant and refugee neighbors.

This refusal is for everyone who was murdered trying to make the crossing, and for my students, who are still alive.

 

Providence City Council Meeting TONIGHT: No Burrillville Power Plant

UPDATE: The committee voted to send the resolution described below to the full city council for a vote (this is good). Watch this space to learn when that vote is–we’ll want to show up for that, too.

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The Providence City Council Special Committee on Municipal Operations and Oversight meets tonight to vote on a resolution opposing Invenergy’s fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville, and investigating Johnston’s sale of water (which comes from the same source as Providence’s water) to the plant.

25 Dorrance St (3rd floor), Providence

TONIGHT (January 25th) at 6pm

If you can, please come and support the resolution against the power plant. If you can’t, but one of the people below is your councilperson, please call them and urge them to pass this resolution, which could help keep Rhode Island healthier–its human and nonhuman people, its ecosystems–and lower its contributions to climate change.

Jo-Ann Ryan, Ward 5
401-595-8604, 401-464-2046

Kevin Jackson, Ward 3
401-286-4223

Luis Aponte, Ward 10
Council President
401-781-6861

Sabina Matos, Ward 15
Council President Pro Temp
401-383-3814

Nicholas Narducci Jr, Ward 4
401-497-1430

A good thing to say: “I’m NAME, I live at ADDRESS in WARD #. I’m calling to ask Councilman/Councilwoman NAME to vote in favor of Councilman Yurdin’s resolution against the Invenergy Power Plant. The deforestation and pollution from the plant will affect all Rhode Islanders in the long term, and Burrillville itself has said they don’t want the plant. Please tell the Councilman/Councilwoman that I’d like them to support Councilman Yurdin’s resolution.”

If you can’t do phone calls, you can email your councilperson by ward number–like, “ward10 AT providenceri DOT com.”

Alternate History: Refusal 4

The next day, the students came into the well-appointed classroom, with its big windows and its new desks and its variously computerized boards and screens, and I sat there and said nothing.

I refused to teach them and my colleagues refused to teach them and the people who worked in the offices refused to explain anything to them or process their paperwork or even help them withdraw, and the custodians refused to empty the garbage cans and the groundskeepers refused to shovel the snow, and the people who ordinarily cooked for them refused to cook for them and turned the delivery trucks away, or unloaded them and then gave the food directly to their own and their neighbors’ families.

I lost my job and I went home, frightened, sick to my stomach, with less to lose–less status, less money, less safety–and free to do more, or do differently. They all did, we all did.

(There’s another version of this story where I was the only one to refuse, but I like this version better.)

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I actually feel like teaching is one of the areas where I can be useful, but I could be wrong about that. The founders of the institution that employs me made some of their money by buying and selling human beings (which they have acknowledged) and they built it on land stolen from the Narragansett Tribe (which, as far as I know, the institution has not acknowledged).

The proposed “track straightening” of the Amtrak Northeast Corridor would pass through Narragansett tribal land and sacred sites, and members of the tribe have voiced their opposition to it. (It would also damage or destroy forests and wetlands, both of which can help Rhode Island weather climate change.) You can see the environmental impact statement here, and via email you can tell Amtrak/NEC Future not to build this track: info AT necfuture DOT com. They are supposedly taking comments until January 31st.

You can also call the office of Senator Jack Reed, who is in favor of building the new track, at (401) 943-3100, and tell him why you’re opposed to building it. I’ll post some words later today that you can use, if you want.

Alternate History: Refusal 3

The next day, everyone who worked at the Alyeska Pipeline Operations Control Center in Anchorage locked the doors, typed in the codes that would stop the flow of oil at every pump station within four minutes, and sat on their hands.

That’s not entirely accurate. Someone had brought a Sudoku book with only half the puzzles done. They played the game of who could ignore the most phone calls, emails, texts. They’d laid in a stock of food and bottled water, but someone also found it necessary to microwave a box of stale Peeps left over from last Easter. Someone had brought a carving he was working on. They sat and waited for–who would come? There was a betting pool: riot police? Hostage negotiators? Tanks? Most of them had left a letter, just in case.

About half of them had rifles, because they hunted on the weekends, and one person had brought her compound bow because she thought it would be funny, no matter how many times someone else told her that none of this was funny. “Sure it is,” she said.

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Share what you can spare with the water protectors fighting the Sabal Trail Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Trans Pecos Pipeline.

This refusal is dedicated to all of them, past, present and future.

Alternate Histories: Refusal 2

The next day, everyone who could walk, walked in the street, and everyone who could roll, rolled in the street. At first, they would do it until someone yelled at them, and then when that person was gone they’d get back in the street. In later days, when there were more of them, they just kept walking and rolling.

When drivers or police asked them where the fuck they were going, at first they said, “Work,” or “The store,” or “My girl’s house,” or “School.” Later, sometimes, they said, “Boston,” or “The ocean,” or “The future.”

They got where they were going whenever they happened to get there. So they made other refusals possible: their supervisors had a choice as to whether to mark them late, cops had a choice of whether to harass and threaten and hit them, drivers had a choice whether to honk or keep quiet. People on either side of a desk or checkout counter–social worker and client, checkout clerk and customer–got where they were going at the same time, just later. The number of cars abandoned by the side of the road increased, incrementally.

Sometimes there were just a few people, strung like beads in ones and twos along a road in a small town. Sometimes hundreds, thousands of people were walking and rolling, all the mobile people in a city.

Over at the feedlots, the stockmen opened the gates and turned off the electricity and the cows stumbled out to walk among the humans and eat the bitter grass by the side of the road.

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In honor of this refusal, please write to the North Dakota Legislative Assembly, especially the transportation committee, and tell them that House Bill 1203–which would allow drivers to hit protesters with their cars with impunity–is disgusting and inhumane. If you, too, get on a roll, there are similar bills proposed in Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa and Washington State.

This refusal is in memory of Mark Baumer.