Outside Dirty Electricity
By Elodie Reed '13
You may ask: why on earth would a group of people (environmentally-friendly people, that is) want to sleep outside in sub-freezing temperatures and bitter cold winds in nothing more than a tent? Not just for fun, that’s for sure. No, sleep-outs are quite adamant in their message. They are a way to protest sleeping in buildings powered by “dirty” electricity, or electricity powered by coal, oil and gas. Since these kinds of “dirty” electricity power buildings year round, it is only fitting for protesters to hold sleep-outs year round, even in the winter.

The sleep-outs also aim to push forward a new bill within the state government named “An Act to Create a Repower Massachusetts Emergency Task Force.” This bill, which hopefully will be passed by Earth Day (April 22), calls for an “Emergency Task Force” to make regulatory and legislative recommendations on how to “repower Massachusetts” with 100 percent clean electricity by 2020. This bill, which will be cost-free, represents the efforts of Massachusetts environmental activists to move towards 100 percent clean electricity not only in the state, but also across the country. Massachusetts is taking initiative in light of the federal government’s slow movement towards earth-friendly practices.

Amherst recently joined the effort and held its own sleep-out on the town green. On Saturday night, local townspeople, students from Amherst, UMass Amherst, Smith, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke, as well as a group of students from the Boston area, camped out to support the green movement. Speakers talked about the clean electricity bill “Food Not Bombs,” served dinner, and a bike-powered band called “Stimulus Package” played for those that came out. Sleep-outs similar to this took place last semester on the Boston Common, where hundreds (including a small number of Lord Jeffs) slept in front of the Massachusetts State House. Several leading environmental activists joined the ranks in Boston last fall, including Jim Hansen (big time climate scientist) and Bill McKibben (founder of the 350 organization). Though the sleep-outs have ceased in Boston for the time being, one last event will be held on the eve of Earth Day in order to show support for the passing of the clean electricity bill. In the meantime, sleep-outs will be held in Cambridge, as well as independently by groups of enthusiastic, earth-friendly activists.

Why, you may ask, is this so important? Why bother with clean electricity? Why sleep in the freezing cold when you could be in a comfortable, warm bed in your dorm room, apartment or house? With the continued use of “dirty” electricity, the pollution given off by burning fossil fuels continues to add greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. This accelerates climate change.

Climate change causes many social, economic and environmental issues, such as rises in sea level, flooding, drought and shortage of natural resources. Though a group of 20-year-olds sleeping in tents on public property may not solve these problems, the message it sends is an important one: immediate action is needed concerning the environment. The sleep-outs also show that people care. It is our moral obligation as members of the human race to take care of the planet we live on, and using clean electricity is one way to help do that.

Issue 16, Submitted 2010-02-24 02:33:52