The middle-aged guy in the Fall River Herald News T-shirt was casually chatting up the cop, just some friendly mid-morning chit-chat, as I walked past them in the middle of Brayton Point Road in Somerset, Mass., on Sunday. He was referring to the crowd of some 400 singing and chanting protesters moving toward us, marching to the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant down the street, carrying banners like “Gov. Patrick: Quit Coal,” “Coal Kills,” “There Is An Alternative” and “Just Transition For All.”
Leading the march, which had the support of local community members and organizers, was a group of forty-four people — including college students, grandparents and mothers of young children — who would shortly be arrested for trespassing at the gates of the plant. They engaged in peaceful civil disobedience to demonstrate the moral seriousness of their demand: that Governor Deval Patrick use his authority under the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act to close the largest coal plant in New England, one of the region’s largest sources of the carbon emissions that are catastrophically heating the planet.
I stopped and turned to the Herald News guy. I couldn’t help myself.
“You think these people are naïve?” I asked him.
“Uh, yeah. Sure.” He was startled.
“And you’re a reporter?”
“I’m a photographer,” he said flatly, and walked away, suddenly in a hurry to find a better angle. The police officer stared at me inscrutably. I’d been mingling with the press, taking photos and tweeting with my phone, but I was clearly with the protesters. I smiled and kept walking.
What I wished I’d asked the photographer was this: What’s more naïve? The belief that we can afford to go on burning coal without robbing our children of a livable future on this planet? Or believing in the possibility of a fearless and determined peoples’ movement to change the course we’re on?
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