The vigil was scheduled to last a week, concluding Tuesday, Oct. 30 at noon ahead of that evening’s slated Senate debate between Brown and Warren. However, due to the impact from Hurricane Sandy, both the debate and the vigil were called off on Monday.
The anticipation of Sandy, aka “Frankenstorm,” added an urgent reminder of the seriousness of climate change, and vigil participants were quick to emphasize it. When I arrived at around 6pm on Friday, about 10 people were already there, a few holding signs. Shortly thereafter, one of the participants began making a sign with the message: “Frankenstorm is coming! Break the climate silence!!” Altemose, meanwhile, grabbed the megaphone and started announcing “Frankenstorm is coming! Climate change is here! Connect the dots!”
The goal of the vigil is to try to break the climate silence in the Massachusetts Senate race. 350MA is demanding that both Brown and Warren reveal their positions on climate change – “the biggest threat the world has ever faced,” according to the 350MA website – before the Nov. 6 election, preferably during the third and final debate.
“I think we’ve been wanting to make sure that climate change and fossil fuels are part of this election for a long time,” said Altemose, whose Better Future Project is directly affiliated with 350MA.
This demonstration also aligns with the national campaign to end climate silence. Altemose mentioned how this is the first time in 24 years there wasn’t a mention of climate change in the three presidential debates or in the vice presidential debate. “And,” he added, “there’s been very little talk about it at the Senate level here in Massachusetts.”
“Even though they’re talking a lot about things like the economy, and jobs, and the long-term fiscal sustainability of our nation, all of these things are intricately connected to climate change,” he said. “If we’re constantly having to repair buildings because they’re being destroyed, if we’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars of coastal property, that’s going to affect our economy and that’s going to affect jobs. That’s going to affect our ability to pay down the deficit. But no one is talking about this in the election.”
Ben Thompson, a student at BU who is part of 350MA, said he’s hopeful that this vigil will have an impact. He also said there’s been a shift in public perception of the issue. “I think the American public is primed for climate action,” he said. “After the summer belief in climate change has dramatically increased, so I think the American public is one step away from recognizing the urgency of climate change.”
Vigil participants had the option of signing up for a shift, or just showing up and joining in. Activities included holding signs and spreading the message to curious passerby, as well as making calls to both the Brown and Warren campaigns at the end of each shift.
““I think [climate change] has become such a politicized issue, so I think it’s just things like this that have people showing that they really care about it,” said participant Meg Howard from Boston.
Marian Szymanski, a member of 350MA, said this was her first event with that group, though she has taken part in the broader 350.org days of action, such as the “Connect the Dots” event last spring. She also mentioned that she’s the head of the green committee in her church and in that capacity has taken part in “breaking the climate silence” events and days of climate action. But when it comes to urging others to take action, Szymanski feels that people are too overwhelmed with the complexity and magnitude of the issue.
“Unfortunately I think things will have to get worse before people begin to take action,” she said.