Gina McCarthy, Dr. John Holdren and Todd Stern watch Sen. Ed Markey on the screen, who used Skype to remotely participate in the conversation due to a flight delay to Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Olivia Lloyd//PTF.
The most passionate environmental advocates in the Belmont High auditorium were not those on stage, but rather those in the 1,200-person audience the night of June 28. The attendees’ passion at Sen. Ed Markey’s Climate Crisis Action forum is evidence that the grassroots movement has taken hold, and people are no longer waiting for top-down change.
Markey’s three-person panel was composed of Gina McCarthy, Dr. John Holdren and Todd Stern, all experts in the field of environmental policy and climate change. McCarthy, head of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2013 to 2017, got multiple standing ovations for her forceful remarks. Holdren was President Obama’s adviser for science and technology, and Stern was leading U.S. envoy in negotiating the Paris Climate Accord.
Outside the school doors prior to the event, citizens dressed in blue shirts were holding signs for Bob Massie, who is challenging the current Republican governor Charlie Baker for the governor’s seat. Leigh Baltzer, a single mother from Hull, Mass., described the environment’s “critical moment,” and how she needs someone who will “fight for renewable energy in a bold way and who is not going to back down to fossil fuels.” She supports Massie because of his strong pledge and policies to fight climate change and restore environmental protection regulations.
Aviva Brecher, a member of the International Astronomy Union, division of Planetary Systems and Bioastronomy, has been advocating for climate preservation through science throughout her career. Yet she said that citizens can only do so much on their own.
“Driving electric cars around the Belmont High School parking lot on the weekend is not going to be very helpful if there are no incentives to purchase electric and hybrid cars,” she said.
“I do what I can personally, but without policy nationally, we can’t really reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The passion for change was evident not only in the older attendees, but also in the young people at the presentation. Three boys in the back row described how they decided to attend of their own accord, not because they were accompanying their parents. Milo Loyall, who is 13 years old, said he and his friends discuss politics and read the Boston Globe to stay updated on the news.
The trio was aware of the largely blue audience, but they understood that the event was more than just preaching to the choir. Angus Abercrombie, also 13, noted:
“If you empower each person in a room … they can all go out into their community of people who might have more dissenting opinions, and they can essentially work on changing those minds.”
To his left sat Alexander Wong, who is 14 and will be starting Belmont High in the fall. “Whether or not you’re a Democrat or a Republican or any other party, this is not an issue that favors one party over the other,” Wong said.
“It’s a planet wide issue that everyone in every country needs to be aware of and have information about.”