The first night of the Extreme Energy Immersion, participants, mostly current college students voluntarily taking a week away from school, gathered around kitchen tables and comfy living rooms in Roxbury, Massachusetts engaging in deep in conversations ranging from the politics and economics of energy issues to the climate justice movement. The next morning we loaded ourselves onto the bus and headed for the Catskills in New York and the beautiful homestead built with love and sweat by Bus Expedition Alumni Amy and Wes Gillingham with their two children. We’d like to express our deep gratitude to this family as Expedition Education Institute (EEI) would not be on this trip were it not for their inspiration, collaboration, and support! Our gratitude also goes to several incredibly generous donors/supporters of EEI’s work and mission, anonymous individuals, the Chorus Foundation, and Unity College. We absolutely would not have been able to do this program in the way that we are without their encouragement, partnering, and funding. Amazingly, it came together quite naturally through our shared passion for the important move we need to move away from fossil fuels and toward alternative fuels.
Sitting out in the Catskills under a starry sky supping on soup and soaking in stories, we were many miles and seemingly worlds away from our urban Massachusetts launch, but the enthusiasm was electric—in a positive and sustainable way! The next day Wes shared about his work with the Catskill Mountainkeepers and the fight against fracking in NY state and their co-founding of a national Extreme Energy Collaborative dedicated to addressing the contributions of extractive industries to climate change and climate justice issues and promoting a shift to renewable and just energy sources. This was followed by an intense tour around Dimock, PA, learning firsthand about the devastating impacts of hydrofracking on communities, individuals, and the land. This part of Pennsylvania is hardly even visible on a map when fracksites-–wells and pads–are layered on top. The density and number of fracking sites is astounding, and the industrial process has poisoned the water for many, killing livestock, impacting livelihoods, and damaging personal health. Not surprisingly, the learning community was emotionally exhausted by the end of the long day and needed to wait for the next morning to engage in reflection and processing as a group.
A number of the students came on this trip to learn more about how to encourage their home institutions to divest their investments in the fossil fuel industry and we’re proud to be partnering with Unity College in Maine who can claim to be the first college to divest (on 350.org’s Do the Math tour). We believe that divesting from all fossil fuels and reinvesting in non-damaging energy production is one step along the way to raising awareness and using funds to promote sustainable solutions. It is clear that climate change and destruction of the air, water, land and its inhabitants must simply stop. We intend to be a part of that stopping, teaching about and practicing the skills for the Great Turning, a paradigm shift away from an industrial growth society and toward a life-sustaining civilization.
Tomorrow will find us a little further south in PA learning about more destruction and areas of parklands that are threatened with gas drilling.