'Living the Change' fair in Pittsfield celebrates environmental activism

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Photo Gallery | 'Living the Change' climate and sustainability fair

PITTSFIELD — A Melville Street fair conceived to celebrate community activism blossomed into a forum to promote new activism on Saturday as hundreds cycled through Shire City Sanctuary.

It was exactly what organizers envisioned, and more.

When they started planning the "Living the Change" fair, Kinder Morgan's proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline through the Berkshires and Massachusetts was still on.

With that project now mothballed, a "feeling of celebration" and victory permeated the event, said John Prusinski, a member of 350MA's Berkshire Node, said.

But activists earn the name for a reason, so much of the programming concerned getting back in the trenches to fight for more change.

"We wanted to keep the energy going and expand it into more areas of environmental and social activism," Prusinski said.

Serious discussion predominated inside the sanctuary, where local residents participated in forums on climate change — "beyond denial, burnout and despair" — talks on how to build an "impact" economy and support community industry in the Berkshires and a teach-in on how solar energy works.

Not that it wasn't still a party.

The fair featured beer, a "Food Truck Rodeo" featuring everything from elk burgers to veggie bowls and live music outdoors in the courtyard.

The level of protest against NED earned the Berkshires notoriety for climate activism, and this notoriety reached new levels when Kinder Morgan backed down with its plans. Kinder Morgan cited lack of distribution commitments from distributors in suspending NED, but the idea that popular resistance also played a part has common currency among people who protested the company's plans.

Natalie Narotzky, communications coordinator at Urban Sustainability Directors Network of Great Barrington, said the Berkshires received a nod from Inside Climate News — a Pulitzer Prize winning news organization covering climate change — after NED was halted.

"This victory has helped to catalyze the energy and give people an incentive to forge ahead," Narotzky said. "People are getting excited, they're feeling proud and hopefully that's going to help keep the fight going. The Berkshires are really on the map in terms of climate activism."

She added, "It's about a movement getting people focused on a pipeline potentially going across their land and trying to bring them in to a more global, universal movement about stopping climate change. It's the most pressing issue of our time."

One of the major ongoing fights involves Spectra Energy's West Roxbury Pipeline in Eastern Massachusetts, Narotzky said. Another centers around Kinder Morgan's proposed Connecticut Expansion Project, which would traverse Sandisfield.

A Pittsfield judge has heard the company's argument seeking permission to put the pipeline through protected conservation lands. A ruling is still forthcoming.

"We're eagerly anticipating the judge's ruling," 350MA Berkshire Node member Judy Eddy said.

"We've been hearing that activist groups in Pennsylvania have been taking heart from what we're doing up here," Prusinski said.

The fair also featured an evening movie based on Naomi Klein's recent best-seller "This Changes Everything" and a dance party scheduled to go on until 11 p.m.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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