Name: Connie Henry

Node / Working Group: Watertown

What is your role in 350 Mass?: A learner, a conduit for information, and a cheerleader!

About how long have you been involved?: November 2021


What is your favorite memory while being a part of the climate movement? How/why did you first get involved?

My memories go back a ways, and I link the climate movement with the environmental movement. I'm an “oldie goldie” so I got involved as a young mom after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident happened and my own local community of Watertown started their own group called Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety. Watertown had an arsenal site that was still active and was originally part of the Manhattan Project, including a nuclear reactor that still had uranium burnings which I witnessed once upon a time. Fortunately, in 1987, the US Army's Watertown arsenal site was closed down and the arsenal became part of the federal superfund site. I think we still needed to think about how to monitor the shift. We now have a very healthy community within that site, culturally. As a place to go, Arsenal Yards is very lively and much better served in that way. 

Since I'm still new to 350 Mass, I'm still creating my own sense of memories. So, one memory I hope to have (sooner rather than later) is the loud collective cheering upon the passage of the Make Polluters Pay bill, and that state and local communities who are receiving their first check can put it right to work because it's very much needed.


What has shaped your vision of climate organizing? What lessons have influenced you?

There are many lessons we take with us from other kinds of organizations. I state emphatically that I am progressive person, and believe that both when I'm working [and] when I'm doing this kind of volunteer work that I am also part of a progressive professional community. One of the things that has shaped me is this idea that we are stronger together, [especially] when we work hard, sustain our work, have joy built within it, and have a vision of what needs to happen. Some of my shaping comes as a grandmother. I want my children and all children to inherit an earth that is safe, just, clean, and joyous.


What are your hopes for the future of 350 Mass and climate organizing?

One of my [biggest] hopes is that we continue to grow as a diverse organization: racially, economically, and as a multi-generational community. [I also hope] that we can serve as a model for other states and organizations who do this work. Another part of the work for me…is that we are also building ourselves as part of a larger coalition, and how to be most effective as these different groups coming together for a just and safe transition to clean energy. Some threads throughout that are about the idea of equity and justice, and the idea of sustained work. It’s [never finished] but it is absolutely worth doing, and we're continuing and passing it along.

I think it’s so important that we are a large umbrella organization. How we reach people is through connections across whatever differences may be had, including different perspectives about climate. 


When you envision a thriving community, what do you see?

First, I see a broad smile on people. You're in a community that's doing the work, that's growing. [When I think about thriving, I] think about prosperity not in a monetary sense but in a rich community sense, and that's a collective responsibility as well as a collective reward. That thriving community has a deep sense of justice and safety in the present and for the future. There is a sense of appreciation, wonder, and gratitude for what we have. [People are] working hard and [have a] sense of responsibility to work hard for what is not yet there. 

[The other piece I wanted to talk about is]: I am an educator and one of my central beliefs is around discourse and [the idea] that we [are] continually [learning]. So, part of that thriving community is one that's always in conversation.


What is something you love about your community?

My community has grown more diverse over the years. I've lived here for 45 years and one of the things that I really like about it is that more young people are moving here. It's become much more racially and ethnically diverse and that there's a real sense of commitment to sustainability [and] to things like the arts that need to thrive as well…And, [we have] a very thriving library.


What is a book that you would recommend to everyone and why?

Whether this is for everyone or not, I thought that I would [share] because I have it by my side. This book is a math book of sorts called The Beauty of Numbers in Nature. I belong to a math book club, and this was the first book that we read. I thought about why I would think about this one in this context: it's because it talks about the complexity of the Earth that we live in; that it has inherent structures, patterns, principles, and [incredible] diversity. It's a book that has lovely pictures but also some dense text so I like that combination.


If you had a bumper sticker, what would it say?

If I had a bumper sticker, I could say many things, but I think [it] would say: “Be kind, be just and dance!”


In a more just world, what do you see yourself doing?

I have loved being a teacher for my professional career, and I would continue doing it. I'm doing it even though I'm retired [because] math is much more generative than people realize. It’s about having a problem be a [blank] canvas and figuring out your own solutions to it, and it's also much about discourse. It’s also very much about equity. Math often has served as a gatekeeper for children of color and for young women, and it should be a gateway. So, I do see myself continuing in that direction…[But] we are human beings, and we always will need to make sure that justice is happening, but of course I would see myself very happy if we ever get to the point that we can say, “Wow, we really have done this.”

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