This past Saturday, I participated in a demonstration that blocked the Strolling of the Heifers parade for about 20 minutes [story, A1]. Two of my friends involved stayed on the street until they were escorted out by police.
The Heifers parade is cherished by communities within and beyond Vermont’s borders, for good reason. We deserve to celebrate what is accomplished every day through sustainable agriculture, green-energy incentives, and social inclusion in the quest of fighting climate change.
Human beings require moments of celebration for our good efforts. If we do not allow for celebration, we would individually fizzle with hopelessness, and communities would crumble.
But human beings also have a great, looming, deeply personal need to express fear and anger. Without outlets for negative emotions, they fester and take us down from the inside out.
In a place like Brattleboro, we are inevitably sheltered from the most catastrophic effects of climate change taking place around the world. These mostly impact marginalized communities of people who don’t have access to the resources they need to heal.
Youth like me are realizing this more every day. At this point, it takes more strength of hope than it should for me to envision a happy future on this injured planet. If our local government decides to declare a climate emergency, it will have lasting, beneficial effects on our Earth.
On Saturday, seven youth, ranging from ages 12 to 19, staged a die-in, lying on the ground to represent corpses, while two of us screamed and mourned at the prospect of our friends dead in the street under a metaphorical context of climate disaster.
This is metaphor, and it isn’t. People are dying as we speak.
While the town is going to such lengths to honor the wonderful things that are happening in Vermont, is it really that much to demand collective attention, for just a few moments, to focus on the absolute terror we hold constantly?
When I was about to step off the street, a man rushed over and looked me in the eyes. “We are afraid with you,” he said, near tears. “But why do you villainize us?”
What if we were more open to discomfort? What if our society cherished safe spaces in the midst of celebration, where fear and anger is held and heard, just as much as we cherish our moments for smiles and laughter?
Bringing emotion out in the open allows so much more to be possible. We are that much more able to move forward. Allowing ourselves to be fully vulnerable yet resilient is true courage.
What my friends and I staged was absolutely not a protest against the Heifers parade or what it symbolizes. Instead, this action called for people in Brattleboro and tourists alike to go home and take personal analysis of their priorities.
It demanded that the town look at us and hear our screams of despair. In this era of climate crisis, young people feel this way.
Listen to us. I don’t think this is too much to ask.
Lucy Jane Congleton