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“Die-in” climate change demonstrators block Brattleboro’s annual Strolling of the Heifers parade on June 8.

Voices / Viewpoint

Adult climate activists in the parade cheer for the kids

‘We are fortunate that we have the choice to attend or participate in a parade. But in a few short years, thousands of people around the globe will live with long periods of heat, thirst, and discomfort as unavoidable facts of daily life.’

Signing this contribution: Juliet Cuming, climate queen, Climate Coalition parade organizer; Maria Ogden, climate queen, Extinction Rebellion local presenter; Ward Ogden, Extinction Rebellion local presenter. Also signing: XR members David Shaw, Ellen Pratt, Richard Bissel, Elizabeth Bissel, Sandi Mann, Dora Musini, and Mikaela Marmion.

Brattleboro

Thanks and kudos to Orly Munzing, Erin O’Connor, and all the folks who made the Strolling of the Heifers parade such a success!

We marched as part of the Climate Coalition, a new entry that included Extinction Rebellion, 350.org, MotherUp, Brattleboro School of Dance, Post Oil Solutions, and The Climate Queens.

The aim of the Climate Coalition was to raise awareness about the climate crisis in a positive, regenerative manner. Our Extinction Rebellion chapter (which served as permit holder for the parade), as well as the other groups in the coalition, were committed to our Brattleboro debut being effervescent, inclusive, and colorful, while conforming to parade rules.

Some background on Extinction Rebellion: This international climate movement shut down the city of London several times during the last two weeks of April using nonviolent direct action to highlight the climate crisis, demanding that politicians tell the truth about the dire state of this global disaster.

In spite of all the inconvenience, support for Extinction Rebellion in the United Kingdom quadrupled, and by May 1, the UK became the first country in the world to declare an environment and climate emergency.

The fact that 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg had addressed Parliament the week before and that Labour politicians had backed the declaration were not insignificant. No one could deny that Extinction Rebellion’s disruptive actions had played a crucial part in this progress toward addressing climate change.

* * *

During this year’s Heifers parade, a similar type of disruptive action came to Brattleboro.

Although our Climate Coalition group did not witness it (we were in the staging area), we know that a group of young people conducted a die-in on Main Street once all the farm animals had safely passed by.

We saw photos and watched the BCTV coverage of the events and were struck by the conviction of these young folks, some of whom were only 12 years old.

Like everyone else who watched or marched in the parade, we were a bit hot and a bit thirsty, and our feet were uncomfortable. Many of the Climate Queens were in fabulous ensembles, which made it difficult even to sit down!

We are fortunate that we have the choice to attend or participate in a parade. But in a few short years, thousands of people around the globe will live with long periods of heat, thirst, and discomfort as unavoidable facts of daily life.

The 15-minute delay of the Heifers parade will seem quaint in comparison.

* * *

We are so grateful to the first responders, the Brattleboro Police Department, and parade officials who showed respect and compassion to the young demonstrators, allowing this act of civil disobedience to give voice to their legitimate concerns.

Much has already been said about the action on social media and in local papers (including this one), but we want to make clear that we think that the actions of both the demonstrators and the police/first responders were exemplary in their peacefulness.

While this action was not a part of the Climate Coalition or Extinction Rebellion’s parade plan, we hope all can recognize the desperation and concern that sparked this disruption.

That these young people had the courage to act publicly on it should give us pause.

We are grateful to the kids who did the die-in for giving us a tiny and very bearable taste of what the future holds if our governments do not declare a climate emergency and take action.

* * *

Climate-justice work can bring joy and sadness, enthusiasm and exhaustion, hope and grief. This full range of emotions is to be expected with such an overarching, overwhelming crisis.

But getting involved, in whatever way fits for you, can help. There are many ways to raise our voices and call for change: disruptions, celebration, education. However you feel called, please join the fight to save Mother Earth.

If you or anyone you know would like to learn more about the Extinction Rebellion movement, please email XRSVT@protonmail.com or visit Extinction Rebellion Southern Vermont on Facebook.

Here is contact info for other members of the Climate Coalition:

• 350.org: brattleboro@350vt.org

• Mother Up!: Families Rise Up for Climate Action: abby@350vt.org

• Post Oil Solutions: postoilsolutions.org, click on “Contact.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #515 (Wednesday, June 19, 2019). This story appeared on page D1.

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