The Recorder – Environmental Protection, Music Mix at Second Annual Honoring the Earth Rally in Turners Falls

TURNERS FALLS — As dozens filled Peskeomskut Park to enjoy live music and heed environmental messages during Saturday’s second annual Honoring the Earth rally, the fresh air and mild temperatures are reminders of what climate activists are fighting for.

Overall, organizers sought to continue their tradition of advocating against large-scale solar projects that destroy forests, while broadening their focus to address FirstLight Hydro Generating Co.’s impact. on the Connecticut River ecosystem.

The rally of environmentalists, which took place from 2 to 6 p.m., included musical performances, poems and speeches. Bruce Katz’s band was joined by locals Joe Gravelin and Tom Neilson as musical performers, Don Ogden presented poetry, and speeches were given by Gravelin, Carl Mayer, Gloria Caballero-Rocca, Fred Beddoll, Bill Stubblefield and Susan Masino. There was also a raffle and participants could sign environmental petitions.

Congratulating those present, the organizer Janet Sinclair introduced the guests of the rally as “local heroes”. Gravelin, a resident of Northfield, took the stage first, opening with a tribute to the tribal peoples who inhabited the region before European colonization.

“We honor these people and the fact that they left us a land that was well taken care of,” Gravelin said. “Indigenous people saw their relationship with the land as: ‘We are the land.’ Earth is us.”

Continuing, Gravelin emphasized the importance of maintaining “the relationship that each of us has with the sun,” advocating for climate awareness and healthier methods of building solar panels. At the time, he expressed concern about the state of the Connecticut River, which environmentalists say has been devastated by FirstLight’s half-decade operation.

“This river definitely has spirit, and that spirit has been challenged over the last 50 years,” Gravelin said. “It’s time for us to take care of this river like your son or daughter.”

FirstLight has submitted its amended final application for a new 50-year operating license to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The three facilities slated for relicensing through FERC — the Northfield Mountain hydro-pumping facility and two Turners Falls hydroelectric plants — have drawn criticism for their effects on fish populations, the Connecticut River and the environment.

Meyer, a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, echoed the message after an energetic performance by the drumming group Agua y Bosque.

“It’s hard to talk about a river that’s barely alive, and that’s been barely alive for nearly half a century,” Meyer said at the start of his speech. “I’ve got 10 minutes, but I’m going to walk away from this feeling like I’ve failed.”

Meyer argued that all organizations charged with maintaining the health of the Connecticut River have failed. He then focused on FirstLight and Northfield Mountain specifically, calling them a natural gas-dependent “parasite of the grid” that operates “the deadliest machine ever to be installed on the Connecticut River.”

“Please don’t ever think that Northfield (Mountain) has anything to do with hydropower,” he said. “All he cares about is the weight of the water.”

Meyer cited ISO New England and the United States Geological Survey’s National Water Information System as resources that provide statistics and visuals showing the damage the power company is doing to the Connecticut River and the surrounding environment.

“Put it in your head and in your heart if you want to see what the river is like,” he said.

Even the music of the day incorporated an environmentalist sentiment, with Tom Neilson and Lynn Waldron dueting lines such as “Climate change caused a hiatus and no snow at all” and “What do we get in return for our trees?” Asthma, cancer and heart disease”.

After about an hour and a half of addresses and performances, Bruce Katz’s band closed the rally with an energetic and bluesy set, highlighted by Katz’s solos on both keyboards and Hammond organ. Speakers and event goers circled and danced on the green as the Earth cooled into the evening.

Contact Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or [email protected]

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