Monday, April 16, 2018

How Green Was/Is/Will Be My Valley?



This was the question posed on March 4, 2018, as lifelong social and environmental justice activist Howie Hawkins (pictured speaking in the photo here) joined a panel of local activists and an engaged audience of about 50 participants at the Unitarian Universalist Church Hall in Middletown, NY, in a forum organized by Hudson Valley Green Party (HVGP).  The valley thus in question is the Hudson Valley, currently under attack from the toxic, fracked and diesel fuel Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) power plant in Wawayanda (Orange County) and its proposed connector Valley Lateral Pipeline (VLP) from Millennial Pipeline; the proposed toxic fracked fuel Cricket Valley power plant near Dover Plains (Dutchess County); Lincoln Park mixed fuel (including fracked fuel) plant near Lake Katrine (Ulster County); and Legoland amusement park proposed for  the Town of Goshen (Orange County).

Howie Hawkins, who is seeking the 2018 gubernatorial nomination from the NYS Green Party, was our keynote speaker on the topic of "From Resistance, to Power." He was introduced by facilitator Barbara Kidney, CoChair of HVGP, who noted that for all his life, wherever Howie went, he left behind a trail of justice, peace, and beauty.  She advised attendees to check out the Wikipedia article on Howie (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howie_Hawkins) to get an overview of his many substantive endeavors to promote the common good, including: standing up against bigotry in the US and apartheid in South Africa; opposing the Vietnam War; establishing an Occupy-like construction workers' cooperative in Dartmouth in 1984; and helping to establish the Clamshell Alliance in 1976 which successfully stopped the proposed establishment of Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire.  She noted that had Howie been elected Governor in 2014, we would not be facing the construction of new toxic fuel plants and pipelines in NYS today.  During his talk, Howie spoke of how advocates for human and Earth rights can influence the political zeitgeist and policies of plutocratic politicians and officeholders, even when such advocates do not attain enough votes to win elections themselves.

Our panel of local experts and activists consisted of the following members:

~ Randy Hurst of Hudson Valley Green Party (HVGP) and Pramilla Malick, both of Protect Orange County (which Randy founded and Pramilla has chaired for the past few years). (Pramilla is seeking the Democratic nomination for State Senate District 42, to challenge incumbent John Bonacic R-C).  They spoke of the resistance to CPV, and the climatological, environmental, and public health threats CPV poses.

~ Jordan of Hudson Valley EarthFirst! who spoke of the direct nonviolent action taken by  HVEarthfirst! including 24/7 tree sitters (throughout the windy, subzero, snowy weather of December and January) who blocked and thus delayed trench work for VLP in the forest known for its populations of bog turtles, Indiana bats, and bald eagles, among many other species whose homes are being destroyed by this toxic endeavor.

~ Dave Heller of HVGP who spoke about the proposed Cricket Valley plant, to be even bigger than CPV. He noted that the power company had made a $500,000 donation to Dover Plains public schools, yet would poison the air the students will breathe.

~ Andrew Dalton of HVGP and New Paltz Climate Action Coalition, who provided information on the Lincoln Park project, and the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline, to run alongside the NYS Thruway, conveying toxic fracked materials from Albany to northern NJ.  That latter project is currently in abeyance.

It was noted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is supportive of all these new toxic, greenhouse gas emitting power plants, which, according to experts such as Drs. Tony Ingraffea and and Bob Howarth of Cornell University, are conservatively estimated to add 25% to statewide greenhouse gas emissions if operative.

~ Jessica Gocke of HVGP and Concerned Citizens of the Hudson Valley, who spoke about Legoland, a massive amusement park owned by the large, foreign Merlin corporation and being forced into Goshen by the Town Board and Planning Board against the will of the people and in blatant violation of Goshen's zoning laws and Comprehensive Plan. Unless halted, it will result in close to a million more vehicles annually being driven on the already congested highways in the region, and will be a drain on already stressed water resources, as well as adding to water pollution from run-off. (Jessica also livestreamed our forum onto FB).

Three potential Green Party candidates for Congressional District 19 attended and were introduced by facilitator Barbara Kidney.  These were Victoria Alexander, Steve Greenfield, and Will Pflaum. (Will has since dropped out of the race due to personal considerations; Victoria has won the Libertarian Party endorsement and thus is out of consideration by the Green Party; Steve Greenfield has won the endorsement of the Green Party of NYS).  Barbara noted that Victoria, from Dutchess County, and Will, from Columbia County, are both scholars, holding doctorates in humanities, published authors of books, and alternative farmers.  Barbara pointed out that Steve, from Ulster County, is a professional musician, longterm volunteer firefighter, and a Green Party campaigner who helped elect Green Party Mayor Jason West of New Paltz, who started marrying homosexual couples in the early 2000's, thus initiating the political impulse to legalize the rights of homosexual citizens.

Former Green Party Deputy Mayor of New Paltz Rebecca Rotzler also attended the forum, as did three founding members of The Bronx Green Party, HVGP CoSecretary Joe Calabro, and HVGP Member-at-Large from Orange County, Bennett Weiss, and many active citizens from the greater region.  The forum helped activists to get know about  the work of other activists, and to get an overview of environmental, and thus public health, threats to the Hudson Valley.

Organic and fair trade refreshments were offered by HVGP (and it seems, eagerly accepted by attendees!)  Relevant printed materials including lists of resistance groups and websites were provided to attendees.  The book Independent Politics: The Green Party Strategy Debate, edited by Howie Hawkins, was available for sale or by a $50 donation to Howie's campaign.  Howie collected nearly $200 toward his campaign. Attendees were advised as to how they could make online donations to the Hawkins campaign and to the all the resistance groups represented at the forum.  Andrew Dalton and Barbara Kidney performed Celtic instrumental music as people gathered and during intermission, and they led people in singing "Down by the Riverside" (with second verse of "Gonna shut down that power plant/Down by the riverside/Ain't gonna harm the Earth no more!") and the famous union song "Step by Step (the longest march can be done)." Geography professor Michael Strmiska from Orange County Community College led off the second part of the forum with a rousing chant he has written against CPV.

Judging from the energy of all throughout, and at the end, three flickerings of lights finally followed by Deputy Mayor Rotzler amiably but firmly ushering people out, it seemed that the event was a great success.

If you would like further information about anything you have read here, you can contact Andrew Dalton at 845 699 3051.

HVGP is very pleased to note that Howie Hawkins will be coming to our region again on Saturday,  April 28, and will be involved in events in Middletown (Orange County) and then, along with CD 19 candidate Steve Greenfield, in Rhinebeck and Tivoli (Dutchess County).  HVGP's Dave Heller, also active in the Fair Vote organization, will be involved in some of these events, leading participants in playful activities to learn more about the process and benefits of RCV (ranked-choice voting). Stay tuned!