Nelson also speaks to the matter of coal mining itself. Mountaintop removal is destroying Appalachia, he says. Coal mines are buying up everything and forcing people off their land. Five hundred mountains are have been leveled and communities are vanishing with them. “People are just collateral damage, but we don’t want to be collateral damage. We were here before coal was discovered,” he says.
It’s “a human rights violation, almost like genocide,” he adds.
Socially speaking, the climate justice movement is an odd one. Since the planet and its besieged ecosystems cannot speak for themselves, a strange amalgamation of people comes forward in their defense. They are conservative and radical, rich and poor, young and old. After crossing the yellow and black caution tape that marks the power plant’s property line, André — a 24-year-old of Latina and Asian American descent — is arrested alongside Fred Caswell a white, 86-year-old resident of Middletown. Missa Weiss from Framingham, Massachusetts, who brings her daughter Leilani (the youngest protester, at a five months) and her four other children, seems to capture the unifying sentiment. “We borrow the planet from our kids, and we have to give it back,” she says. Many of the arrestees likewise speak of a moral obligation to their children and grandchildren.
By 1:30 the protesters are gone. André and forty-three others have been taken off to jail. And the Brayton Point power plant is still running, steam rising from one of the two cooling towers that blight the head of Narragansett Bay. Yet, thanks to the work of Katkevich and others bent over their phones, word of the rally — the chants and banners, the marching, the arrests — is rippling out over the Twitterverse. The debate is being taken up on Facebook, on TV, and in the papers. And it doesn’t end there. Tomorrow, many of these climate activists will begin preparing for a week-long march billed as an “Energy Exodus” that will proceed 70 miles from Brayton Point to Cape Wind in Barnstable. The march starts August 28.