Students urged to join intergenerational march to spread awareness about natural gas infrastructure

Last modified: Monday, February 29, 2016
NORTHFIELD — Millennials who have not made plans to sunbathe at a beach for spring break are encouraged to participate in a four-day, 53-mile intergenerational walk during March to spread awareness about natural gas infrastructure. The organizers say pipelines pose environmental and health hazards.

The Taking Steps to a Renewable Future walk is sponsored by the recently formed Sugar Shack Alliance whose purpose is to educate people on what it sees as the detrimental environmental effects of fossil fuel power generation.

“I think that there are more and more people who are aware of why we want to stop the pipeline, fracking and keep fossil fuels in the ground, but there’s still a number of people who haven’t heard about it — particularly in communities that won’t have a pipeline running through it,” said Cate Woolner, one of the alliance founders. “The walk is a good way to bring awareness to the issue.”

The walk will start March 17 in Windsor and will end March 20 in Northfield after crossing through Cummington, Plainfield, Ashfield, Buckland, Shelburne Falls, Greenfield, Turners and Millers Falls. The exact path will be announced closer to the event date.

Participants will walk at a pace of about 2.5 miles per hour through communities directly impacted or near the route of the Northeast Energy Direct project proposed by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., which is expected to carry up to 1.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale fields through Plainfield in Hampshire County and eight Franklin County towns along its 415-mile path.

The alliance began planning the walk in November and chose the dates to specifically coincide with spring break for local colleges. Woolner said the benefit of organizing and participating in an event with a younger generation ensures continued awareness about a topic.

“There are some really amazing organizers who are young people,” she said. “It’s been wonderful working with college students. They are more savvy about organizing other people and have also had a variety of organizational and political experience they bring to this work.”

Those who plan to spend the night should bring a sleeping bag, and meals and snacks will be provided. Donations are welcome to help pay for the food and other necessities, but nobody will be turned away if they cannot contribute. Each night will include a free public presentation. The Rev. Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir is scheduled as the opening event in Shelburne.

“Rev. Billy has been using musical satire and street theater for political actions. I think a lot of people will come out to see him,” Woolner said. “One of our goals is to raise awareness about the pipeline, fracking, and fossil fuels and I think this will be a really enjoyable way for people to get schooled.”

The alliance requests all participants register in advance for the walk to have enough food to serve everyone. Woolner said about 30 percent of the people who have registered for the event are students.

“I started being an activist when I was in college and it’s so heartening to be working with these dedicated, knowledgeable, sophisticated and creative students,” she said.

Further information, including registration, is available by visiting the website at bit.ly/1p8Ka7b.