The End Fossil Fuels March seemed like a time where the count of bodies mattered, and where bonds of solidarity would form. So of course I went.
I am a computer science teacher and a climate news junkie, sometimes to a doom scrolling degree. I do what I can to make a difference, like climate education organizing within the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) and communications work for 350 Mass. The End Fossil Fuels March seemed like a time where the count of bodies mattered, and where bonds of solidarity would form, so of course I went.
Like most Massachusetts marchers, I went down on a 350 Mass bus. Originally the buses were Boston based. As a Greenfielder, I was an early advocate for running Connecticut River Valley buses that would mix passengers from up- and down-river (from both sides of the Tofu Curtain, as we refer to it out here).
After Springfield, I overheard a woman named Amy talking about her experiences in the construction trade operating cranes and backhoes, and left my lesson planning long enough to discover that the climate and labor movements are not well aligned yet, for structural reasons. I joined the conversation, and Amy invited me to put on my MTA hat and march as a worker rather than a 350 Mass member. So I jumped ship when we docked and assembled with the Labor Network for Sustainability’s Labor Block.
The Labor/Climate challenge (and the reason for calling for a Just Transition) is that workplace climate activism is a much harder stance for a construction worker than a teacher, for example. Teachers can work in any system -- Capitalist, Socialist, Communist, Anarchist, doesn’t much matter as long as they don’t burn our books -- but construction workers are paid by Capitalists to build what makes Capitalists money. This often includes taking oil and coal and cement out of the ground and putting greenhouse gases in the air.
There’s a “jobs vs environment” narrative we are working to change, and it means having promises to keep.
Amy shared with me a book she was reading, Strong Winds and Widow Makers: Workers, Nature, and Environmental Conflict in Pacific Northwest Timber Country by Steven C. Beda, and I began to read while waiting for the march to begin. The opening chapter told of three loggers who came across an old growth forest grove and refused to cut it down. Rather than lose their jobs, the loggers made common cause with other groups from that region with intersectional interests (indigenous land use, nature preservation, local control), and it would have been too painful for their employers to insist. The grove ended up a protected park.
I mention Amy’s book because it underscored why there weren’t many construction workers (or pipeliners or lumberjacks) on the 350 buses, and why I realized that I should not pat myself on the back too hard as an teacher who risks comparatively little by getting out in front on climate issues. I do appreciate that without administration or union support, a Trumper parent could call me out for being political when I teach climate action. That’s why I help MTA locals form climate committees to provide backup and guidance, and lobby for a functional climate education bill.
While our "parade" (marches with permits are parades, 350 Mass’s Dan Zackin said) did not make it to the UN or break out of any controlled confines (except for the Fordham students gleefully busting out a rhythmic “Tax …. the rich! ….Tax the m---- f---- rich!”), it was a great dry run for the organizers toward supporting the next mass action. I hope it will happen in more of an Extinction Rebellion (XR) style and create good trouble.
Though we did nothing worthy of handcuffs before getting back on the bus, I was glad to have gone and leant my body to the march count. I left with a warm feeling of solidarity. May that warmth grow to a furious fire next time appropriate to the terrifying heat of our warming earth.
Computer Science Teacher
350 Mass Tech & Comms
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