On Wednesday, March 8th, I rode in a car full of old friends and new friends alike to Concord, New Hampshire to protest House Bill 368. The bill concerns the heating of some state-owned buildings in Concord and is proposing that Concord Steam, the current facility providing the municipal heating through biomass, be replaced with a natural gas alternative. The bill has been met with a lot of backlash from environmental groups and disapproval from some citizens in and around the Concord area, as this alternative would leave the door open for a fracked gas pipeline to be built, and would also encourage more fracking.
When we arrived, and as our driver paid for our meter, an elderly woman waiting to pay for her meter noticed our signs, smiled, and said “Oh good. You have a cause.” We all smiled and a member of our group responded, “Of course! Don’t you?” The woman smiled again, shriveled up in her jacket to avoid the cold, then started talking about the tragedies of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Travel Ban, and general adversities of our modern day. We chatted for another chilly minute and as we left, she wished us luck and congratulated our efforts to make our voices heard.
As we entered the state house I was surprised to see the others who came to protest the bill: they were almost all elderly Concord residents; those who knew and loved the town the most. A couple of the men were wearing neon-yellow hoodies with colorful signs draped around their necks, toting slogans opposing the prospect of a pipeline. There was a chipper and energetic woman with a sign that read “#GETTHEFRACKOUTTANH!”, and another woman who was eager to see us young people from separate locations come and support the cause. Among a plethora of other long-time residents who had come to seek justice for their beloved city, there was a chorus of opposition outside the hearing room.
The room quickly filled to the point where there were people standing in the back, and the hearing commenced not long after we filed in and placed our signs against the walls. The first person to speak was one in favor of the bill, and he started off by explaining his surprise at how the city was reacting to the bill. He then expressed how this matter had “nothing to do with fracking or pipelines”, a statement which was met with audible disapproval from most of the people in the room. He went on to defend the bill and deemed it necessary as there were “no other alternatives”.
Following this, a woman spoke after in opposition to the bill. She explained the numerous alternatives to heating the municipal buildings and condemned the statement made about the bill having nothing to do with fracking or pipelines. Her response was met with an applause from what sounded like every bystander in the room. The chairmen, flustered by the applause, took a moment to shout at the room, saying how out of respect, there must not be any clapping or cheering. Soon after this, a security guard approached our group and asked us to remove our signs from the room; putting them on the floor wasn’t good enough. We listened to the rest of the woman’s testimony then made our way out. As we left the state building, a member of our group said, “well, that was fun”. A woman walking in front of us overheard and replied with a hearty smile, “always!”
Despite our efforts, House Bill 368 is expected to be approved and amended by the Senate. 25 state-owned buildings in the Concord area will likely no longer be heated by biomass, and natural gas will be sought to fill its place. The possibility of a pipeline being built grows larger, and the potential of continuous fracking is right there with it. But our voices were heard. Personally, it felt good to be there and to express my opinion on something that had very little to do with me as an individual. To tap into the greater good of the planet and to actively fight for a quality of life for those separate from myself made me feel and realize just what it means to be human. Grassroots activism is what changes everything; it is what drives change itself and it has the power to alter even the most deeply ingrained routines, habits, systems, and order. Today, there has never been a greater need for such activism. Now more than ever, the world needs those who are willing to speak up and engage with what they believe in. Only through this can real, palpable change occur. I was glad to be a part of such an engagement, and it is still very much up to all of us, no matter what age or where we are from, to pursue what we know is right.