July 13: Open Space Online Discussion

Wednesday, July 13, 12:00 – 1:30pm ET
Jump on for part of the call or stay for the whole time

Are you looking for a way to connect with the NERT network and other grassroots groups? Is there an important conversation you are eager to engage in? Do you want to have meaningful dialogue with people who understand the importance of resilience and the Transition? If so, please join an Open Space Online Discussion! Participants suggest topics and then break into smaller discussion groups on the topics that interest them.

This discussion will use Zoom, a conferencing platform that allows us to break into small groups. You can join via computer, tablet, or phone. Feel free to jump on for part of the call or stay for the whole time.

In previous calls we have discussed topics such as:

– Getting to know each other
– Helping a brand new energy committee (in a conservative area)
– The Power of Story for Regional Resilience
– Equity and Transition
– How to build resilience in the New England region
– Fundraising
– A Food Vision for New England

We hope you’ll join us – bring your ideas for discussion or just your curious self. Exciting conversations await.

Add your name and email address below and we’ll send you the info on how to join.

July 18: Online Peer-to-Peer Consulting

Monday, July 18, 12:00 – 1:30pm ET
Jump on for part of the call or stay for the whole time

Could your community group benefit from input from fellow grassroots organizers? Do you want to learn more about starting an initiative, outreach, bridging race and class, fundraising, or other topics? Join a NERT Peer-to-Peer Consulting Online Discussion!

In a Peer-to-Peer Consulting Online Discussion you will have a chance to present your group’s situation and challenges. Two of your peers will offer thoughts and input based on their own experiences as grassroots organizers. You’ll then reverse roles and offer suggestions to your peers.

This discussion will use Zoom, a conferencing platform that allows us to break into small groups. You can join via computer, tablet, or phone. Feel free to jump on for part of the call or stay for the whole time.

We know that NERT members have much wisdom to share, and we’re excited to put this wisdom in service to the broader New England network. Please join us!

Add your name and email address below and we’ll send you the info on how to join on Monday morning.

Update from the June Regional Convergence

On June 11 2016, over 110 people came together at the Resilience, Resistance, and Regional Equity Convergence in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. The gathering was convened by the New England Resilience & Transition (NERT) network, a network of grassroots groups working to build resilience, sustainability and equity in their communities and the region as a whole. NERT members were joined by groups and individuals fighting new fossil fuel infrastructure in New England. The crowd was highly engaged throughout the day, connecting around a variety of topics such as renewable energy, group dynamics, food justice, and equity.

Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute kicked us off with a keynote address, sharing thoughts from his new book, Our Renewable Future. (To read more about Richard’s book, see this summary on YES! Magazine.) Richard reviewed the basic contours of the world’s situation, pointing out that our entire globalized economy has only been possible because of the use of fossil fuels. One slide depicted a man trying to push a car down a highway. “It would take you 6 to 8 weeks to go 30 miles if you were using human muscle alone,” Richard pointed out. With gasoline, we can do that in about 30 minutes.

Richard’s talk helped participants gain a clearer picture of what it will take to transition to a fully renewable economy. He and his co-author, David Fridley, identified three categories of changes from the “easy” to “really hard.” It would be fairly easy, for example, to switch the sources of our electric power to renewables such as wind and solar. However, electricity only represents about 25% of our energy use. In the “very hard” category were things like the production of concrete and steel, which form the basis of our built environment. In a “it may not be possible” category (my language, not Richard’s) were the continued widespread use of aviation and some forms of telecommunications. Some of these things simply may not be possible.

Richard also pointed out that the energy transition must “pay close attention to equity issues.” It will take significant investment now in renewables if people want to use them in the future, potentially leaving poor countries with little or no sources of energy in a renewable future.

In sum, the renewable future will have to use less total energy, and that energy will be less controllable and predictable. Our lives will be less mobile and much more localized. This won’t be a “plug and play” transition, simply switching out solar and wind for fossil fuels—if it were that easy, we might have done it already. Rather, we are looking at a full “civilization reboot.”

The good news is that a civilization reboot provides the perfect opportunity to correct the ills that are prevalent in our current society—everything from racial injustice to ongoing wars to social isolation and the loss of community. This re-visioning of society is what drives and motivates our movement for a new economy, resilience, sustainability and equity.

Richard’s talk was followed by two respondents from the NERT network, Marla Marcum of Resist the Pipeline and Karen Spiller of Food Solutions New England. Marla powerfully encouraged people to notice the emotions kicked up by the facts that Richard touched on in his talk. “When we talk to new people about this work,” she reminded us, “we need to come from a place of emotions and values. Facts alone will never convince people to join us.”

In Q&A, Marla gave a rousing appeal to become involved with the upcoming 10 days of action against the Spectra gas pipeline currently being built in the Boston neighborhood of West Roxbury (read more here). Marla also gave a workshop later in the day on the crucial relationship of resilience and resistance (read more in this blog post by Sarah Byrnes & Chuck Collins). One participant chimed in, “I am really grateful to meet more folks aligned with both resistance and resilience, and that these two frames are being unified and highlighted within a network orientation in our region.”

After Marla’s response to Richard’s talk, Karen Spiller underscored and elaborated upon Richard’s point about equity. In Q&A, she encouraged the group to reach out and make human connections with everyone, everywhere. “People of color are everywhere,” she pointed out. “And we can do a better job of bringing them into our work by paying close attention to our language, when we hold our events, and how we reach out. The human touch is essential.” (Stay tuned for a video of the morning session at http://nertnetwork.org.)

The morning talk was followed by lunch (big thanks to Onsite Organics!) and a full group networking session where Ben Roberts of the Conversation Collaborative helped folks connect with each other in pairs. “I felt really connected to the group and enjoyed hearing from folks from around the region,” said one participant about the session.

Next, folks were treated to an array of workshop options. Topics included renewable energy, food justice, the new economy, biodiversity, equity in Transition and resilience organizing, the intersection of resilience and resistance, group dynamics, and the use of story.

There was also a workshop designed to continue the conversations begun in the full group networking session. People were able to offer support and ideas to each other about their community work. One woman came away with some new ideas for helping her university become more sustainable, and the full group coalesced around an idea to identify an interested person in every New England community and connect them to each other in order to create new systems for food, energy, economy, and more. This “big idea” inspired people to think about how NERT can become that network.

Elsewhere, Samantha Wechsler of Wildwise helped workshop participants explore building beneficial relationships using a permaculture framework. In the food justice workshop, Karen Spiller of Food Solutions New England (FNSE) shared the FSNE vision and plan for a sustainable New England food system that provides 50% of the region’s food by 2060. Orion Kriegman illustrated what the Boston Food Forest Coalition was doing that helps contribute toward the development of such a system. Participants in the workshop shared what food projects they were or hoped to work on in their communities. Karen closed by suggesting that we find a way to keep the lines of communication open between FSNE and our grassroots efforts, and invited five NERT members to the MA Food Summit debrief.

In summary, the day was a “a really good mix of everything,” according to one participant. “Conversation, collaboration, informative presentations, action steps and lovely everything.”

NERT was thrilled to offer this opportunity to local and regional activists, and is excited to keep working with participants and others in our common quest to build a resilient, sustainable and equitable region.

To stay involved or jump in, join an Online Discussion on Wednesday, June 22, from 12pm – 1:30. We will use an Open Space format (on the Zoom platform) where participants will suggest break out topics and join small groups on topics that interest them. Read more here. We hope you’ll join us!

For more information, visit http://nertnetwork.org.

Regional Convergence: Logistical Information

Saturday June 11, 10am – 5pm
First Church Unitarian in Jamaica Plain, 6 Eliot Street
Boston, MA

> Registration and breakfast will begin at 9am. Please plan to arrive by 9:30 at the latest to register. Please enter through the Eliot Street side of the church. We will wrap up at 5pm.

> We need Easels! If you have an easel you can bring with you, please email Sarah@LocalCircles.org. Thank you, thank you!

> Address & Parking: The gathering will be held at First Church Unitarian Universalist. The address is 6 Eliot Street, Jamaica Plain, 02130. The church does not have a parking lot, but there is on-street parking on surrounding streets. A municipal (City of Boston) parking lot is one block away, behind the buildings on the 700 block of Centre Street (odd-numbered side), and accessible from Burroughs Street or Thomas Street. The church is also a 15-minute walk from the Green Street T Stop on the Orange Line. Click here for more info: http://www.firstchurchjp.org/#!map-and-parking-info-/c2ca.

> Friday Evening: If you will be arriving on Friday evening June 10, email Sarah@LocalCircles.org for info about an informal gathering.

> Lodging: To request in-home hospitality, email Sarah@LocalCircles.org.

> Lunch: Lunch and light breakfast are provided. There will be plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. If you have other dietary restrictions, email Sarah@LocalCircles.org.

> Volunteer at the Convergence! As you know it takes many people working together to make a successful event and we appreciate your willingness to help out with things like registration, set up, or clean up. Click here to volunteer.

NERT Open Space Calls: June 14 and June 22

Are you looking for a way to connect with the NERT network and other grassroots groups? Join one of NERT’s upcoming online discussions for a chance to continue conversations on topics such as energy, food, new economy, group dynamics, equity, and more. These “Open Space” calls will also give us a chance to discuss NERT’s next steps as a network, our group norms, and communications structures. Whether or not you are attending the Convergence, this is a great chance to learn from others and share your thoughts.

Drop in for part of one of the calls, or stay for the whole time.

  • Tuesday, June 14, 7pm – 8:30pm
  • Wednesday, June 22, 12pm – 1:30pm

Add your name, email, and date(s) you will participate below. We will send you the login details. Thanks!

Resilience + Resistance: A Recipe for Justice and Sustainability

By Sarah Byrnes & Chuck Collins

This piece originally appeared on Resilience.org


Demonstration and arrests to stop Spectra Lateral Gas Pipeline on Washington Street West Roxbury MA 11.12.15

Demonstration and arrests to stop Spectra Lateral Gas Pipeline on Washington Street West Roxbury MA 11.12.15

This morning in Boston, seven people sat down in front of construction equipment, blocking construction of a fracked gas pipeline coming into the heart of the city. This evening, the Jamaica Plain Time Exchange hosted a spring seed and plant exchange. What do these two things have in common?

In the face of climate change, we have the dual challenge of both resisting new fossil fuel infrastructure projects and building a resilient, sustainable and equitable economy in the shell of the old.

Both resistance and resilience-building are necessary. Resistance requires a bold assertion of community rights and individual voices to interrupt, block, and prevent encroachment by a politically powerful fossil fuel industry. Resilience requires creativity, resourcefulness and reskilling – along with focus on the long haul and building institutions.

Demonstration and arrests to stop Spectra Lateral Gas Pipeline on Washington Street West Roxbury MA 11.12.15

Demonstration and arrests to stop Spectra Lateral Gas Pipeline on Washington Street West Roxbury MA 11.12.15

Mahatma Gandhi believed that Indian independence from Britain required both direct action – think the Salt March – and the constructive program of village economics. Both were aimed at interrupting and non-cooperating with British colonial rule. The constructive program included spinning cloth and building an alternative local economy outside of the empire.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because echoes of this approach are all around us. Greg Sankey, a Transition activist in Rhode Island, articulates the interdependence of these two approaches well: “Without resistance, we simply can’t become resilient,” he says. “Our economic and political structures are working tirelessly to undermine our goals – they oppose basic ecological and community principles. That’s why resistance is as essential to the survival of our species as growing food and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Tim Stevenson, author of Resilience and Resistance: Building Sustainable Communities for a Post Oil Age, has also worked to build bridges between approaches, despite what he often sees as splintering of these two movements. “The people who are forming affinity groups to take direct action against pipelines now have the challenge of working in their neighborhoods to ground this work,” he says. “We have to prepare our communities for the disruption that climate change is bringing, including weird weather, food disruption, spread of disease, climate refugees.”

People are usually drawn to one approach or the other, sometimes as matter of temperament. One might be considered radical and political and the other pragmatic and practical. But both strategies are now required – and we must tell the story of their interconnection.

Values, Skills, and Community

Most obviously, activists of both stripes understand the urgent threat of climate change and want to reduce carbon emissions. In order to do this, there are things we must say ‘no’ to, and things we must say ‘yes’ to: yes to biking and public transit, no to new pipelines. Activists take on different pieces of this dialectic, both advancing sustainability in different ways.

For many, social justice is also a core value. The fossil fuel industry must be resisted not only because of carbon emissions, but also because it represents an unjust, corrupt concentration of wealth. To say ‘no’ to this industry, we must also say ‘yes’ to a system of decentralized, locally-owned and renewable energy sources.

In addition, both movements are helping individuals find agency in a mainstream culture that does everything it can to keep folks silent and unengaged. “We are working against a really individualistic culture,” says Amy Antonucci, an activist in New Hampshire with the Seacoast Permaculture Group. “To get anything done—from fighting a pipeline to growing more food, we have to work together,” she says. “This is the true challenge of our time. Can we get along with each other in a respectful way to get things done?”

A Community Example: JP NET

BFFC Action Shot 2Since 2011, the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition (JP NET) has sparked a wide range of activities to strengthen community resilience in food systems, energy, and livelihoods. Inspired by the global Transition movement –and its concern about climate change and changing energy realities — we formed JP NET and projects such as Jamaica Plain Time Exchange, a bartering network, and the “Cancer Free Economy” effort to help businesses find alternatives to toxic chemicals. We’ve convened and spun off the Boston Food Forest Coalition, the JP Local First business association and the Egleston Farmers Market. We’ve convened forums, educational events and work days –and brought people together across differences in race, class, language and sub-neighborhood.

Swap Kids & MaryJP NET also nurtured a political-direct action program, recognizing that we needed to address the larger energy policy issues that contribute to climate change. We convened dozens of educational programs and teach-ins to understand the math and science of climate change and the urgency of reducing carbon and methane emissions to hopefully prevent catastrophic climate change. We staffed the creation of our Boston node of Mass 350.org to engage in a wide range of activities and recruited hundreds of people to attend the People’s Climate March in September 2014.

In the fall of 2014, we learned that a gas pipeline was planned to bring fracked gas from the Marcellus fault in Pennsylvania to Massachusetts –and that a spur was being built into our community. We understood that folly of building 50-year fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when we should urgently be transitioning to conservation and renewable energy. We organized two teach-ins about the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline. We learned how the Texas-based Spectra Energy was rapidly pushing the project, primarily fueled by an urgent need to get gas to export markets to Europe. Before the community woke up to the reality, the project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a five-member agency that rubber-stamps most gas infrastructure projects. Against the objection of our city and state elected officials, Spectra sued to take Boston streets by eminent domain.

We co-founded Resist the Pipeline to mobilize protests against the pipeline and prepare people for nonviolent direct action against its construction. When construction began in September 2015, we were ready with vigils, rallies and blockades, with hundreds of people lining up to risk arrest by nonviolently blocking construction. The work continues: this coming weekend, hundreds of “Mothers Out Front” will be protesting at the site.

Sustainability and Justice

At JP NET and beyond, there is some overlap between the people involved in both resistance and resilience strategies. But for the most part, they are different groups of people. And let’s be clear: both resilience-building and resistance can be time-consuming and emotionally draining. We’re not saying that pipeline fighters should add on resilience work, or vice versa. Folks should continue to do what calls to them.

In some cases, stronger institutional connections are needed: the pipeline protesters add an essential perspective to the institution-building of JP NET. And people who are involved in JP NET can show up and support the pipeline protests at key moments.

What will certainly help all of our work, however, is the knowledge that it is part of a larger, interconnected whole. Our openness to seeing each other as allies expands our sense of the movement, grounding us in the knowledge that this is bigger than one community, one pipeline, or one person. Together, we can say ‘no’ to corruption and carbon pollution, while saying ‘yes’ to sustainability and justice.

Join this ongoing conversation going at the Resilience, Resistance & Regional Equity Convergence on June 11 in Boston. Register here.


Sarah Byrnes is co-founder of Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition and coordinator of the New England Resilience and Transition Network, which convened the June 11, 2016 gathering on Resilience, Resistance and Regional Equity.

Chuck Collins is senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-editor of Inequality.org and co-founder of Resist the Pipeline. He is author of the forthcoming book, Born on Third Base.