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We put our bodies at the gate: An Intergenerational conversation on environmental Activism

by Brianna Jackson, '16

Pictured here are Frances Crowe and Susan Lantz, activists on the panel on 4/21/2014.

To kick of Earth Week, young and old activists championed the closing and decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant at “We Put Our Bodies at the Gate: An Intergenerational Conversation on Environmental Activism.” This panel was held on April 21, 2014 and included members from the “Shut it Down” Vermont Yankee Affinity Group. The discussion kicked off Smith’s Earth Week festivities and was accompanied by an art exhibit, “Bodies at the Gate,” in the Nolen Art Lounge. In describing their experiences, the panelists instilled hope for change by demonstrating the power of activism.

In order for the movement towards climate change to be successful, education is key. Susan Theberge of Climate Action Now said, “A movement must embody the complexity of all people.” Knowledge of the consequences of one’s decision-making about the environment would allow people to realize the harm we do without recognizing it. As Frances Crowe, a 95-year-old activist who has worked towards peace and environmental justice throughout most of her life, said, “We must look at what we’re doing to hasten the end of the life on earth as we know it.” We must realize where we are making mistakes and then do all we can to correct them. The poor are the most affected by climate change, and activists empower the poor and disadvantaged, in particular. Their ultimate goal is to end the cycle of injustice and greed that comes from profit-driven practices which pose environmental threats.

The panelists proved that you are never too old to get involved. Reflection on your passions then setting out to protect them is how to enact effective change; this can be done at any age. In some ways, as Crowe pointed out, older folks have more freedom to be radical because the consequences seem less severe than for a college student with a long, uncertain future ahead. Crowe personally has been arrested multiple times for her protests. In spite of the risks involved in activism, these activists believe that the potential consequences are not as severe as the deleterious effects of their inaction.

By inspiring people to stand up for their beliefs, the panelists moved everyone in attendance to identify injustices in the world and believe that we have the power to end them. Together, we can create a better future for ourselves if we first believe it is possible.