July 14, 2011

The “Kids” Are Alright: My Adventures with the NH Team in Keene

Guest Blog by Steve Chase, Keene Local Contact

When the regional Outreach Coordinator for New England Climate Summer called me to ask if I would host the New Hampshire team’s visit to Keene from July 6 to July 11, I immediately said yes. I did so for three different reasons.

First, Vanessa Rule, the Outreach Coordinator, is a graduate of the Department of Environmental Studies master’s program at Antioch University New England, and about ten years ago, she took a course I taught there called Citizen Advocacy. She has certainly made great use of that class in the last ten years as a climate justice leader in Massachusetts. Anyway, if there is a way I can help out a former student, I say yes. The team talking with the group in the center of Keene.

Also, as one of the local organizers with the Transition Keene Task Force, I loved Climate Summer’s focus on highlighting the many local climate protection and sustainability initiatives going on throughout New England. Keene has a great story to tell, and one of the main goals of our Task Force is to link and strengthen the many people and projects in Keene that are  “facing up to the challenges of peak oil, climate change, and a unjust global economy with creativity, courage, and a positive vision.” A Climate Summer visit from the NH team seemed like an opportunity to do just that in a very upbeat and celebrating way.

My other reason for helping grows out of my work at Antioch as the director of our one-of-kind master’s program concentration in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability. In this program, we train budding young activists to become professional public interest advocates and grassroots organizers working for ecological sustainability, social justice, the democratic control of corporations, and helping local communities make the transition from oil addiction to local resiliency. Let’s not forget that Martin Luther King was only 26 when he became the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 when he helped launched the modern civil rights movement. That movement was often led and inspired by young people and college students. The climate protection and sustainability movement is no different. I think New England Climate Summer is a great example of this important new Power Shift generation. Vanessa’s request was simply a “no brainer” for me, and I jumped at the chance of bringing the NH team to town.

The student’s visit to Keene has also been amazing. Sandy, Van, Jordan, Bryna, and Ben are well-organized, funny, smart, committed, articulate, and very wise about the ins and outs of grassroots community work for a post-oil future. They have also done great press work while here, including a spirited visit to an hour-long local talk show on WKNH, the Keene State College radio station. While on air, the owner of the local Green Energy Options Solar Store called in and invited them over to his storefront to talk about alternative energy options and how there is a strong business case for shifting from fossil fuels to safe and green alternatives. They students went to visit this local businessman later that day.

The students also made solid presentations at the Keene Rotary Club and Antioch University New England, and chatted informally with local citizens at the Keene Farmers Market and the Saint James Episcopal Church. They have met in City Hall with the City of Keene Planning Director and the chair of the Keene Cities for Climate Protection Committee, as well as received a Mayor Proclamation supporting their work at a Keene City Council Meeting. They even lobbied a local restaurant while they were here to join the City’s 10% Challenge Program. This program provides recognition and assistance to local businesses to cut their energy use by ten percent in a single year. They also worked hard for a whole day doing a service project with< a href="http://www.fertilefieldsfarm.com/" >Fertile Fields Farm.

Sandy, Van, Jordan, Bryna, and Ben have impressed and inspired everyone in the Keene area they have come into contact with. My email inbox is filled with thank yous for helping to bring them to town and for their energy and insight.
As the old Who song says, “These “kids” are alright…” and they will be missed when they bike out of town to their next stop in Concord, NH.

Go Team NH!

To read more blogs from New England Climate Summer, visit us at http://climatesummer.wordpress.com/

Steve Chase is the director of the master’s program concentration in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability at Antioch University New England. Along with being an educator, Steve is an activist, writer, and one of the co-founders of the Transition Keene Task Force. Steve graciously took us under his wing for our week in Keene, showing us all the facets to the small city’s big impacts in the environmental movement. Thank you so much for all your help!