Northampton celebrates ‘Interdependence Day’



Published: 07-03-2017 12:02 AM

NORTHAMPTON — A few days before the nation celebrates its independence day, activists, dancers and puppeteers across generational lines gathered in Pulaski Park to point out that no nation or people stands alone.

On Saturday afternoon, about 50 performers donned handmade costumes inspired by the four classical elements — earth, air, fire and water — for Northampton’s second annual “Interdependence Day” celebration to raise public consciousness about man-made global climate change and spur on individual action.

The event began with a performance of “The World We Love is in Our Hands,” a play written by Beth Fairservis, and finished with the performers and attendees fanning out across the city to petition business owners and citizens to reduce their consumption of energy and decrease their reliance on fossil fuels. It was co-hosted by Climate Action Now and the Pioneer Valley chapter of Mothers Out Front.

The actors expressed the urgent need to address climate change through a performance that incorporated call and response, poetry, puppetry, folk songs, dance, a brass band and even a Shakespeare soliloquy.

At one point in the play, actors portraying the elements attempted to heal the ills of human nature by removing banners representing hatred and greed out of a large-scale model of the human brain. In the final scene, they pulled out a large “Declaration of Inter-Dependence” that stressed the connectivity between humanity and the natural world and called for clean air, clean water, healthy soil and renewable energy.

Molly Scott, the leader of the air contingent, said that she loved the whimsical spirit of the performance and that she hoped it would enable the activists to think of creative answers for difficult questions.

“We have to find ways to stay playful because when we’re playful we can come up with creative things in solution flowing together,” she said. “Not one of us has a solution. But collectively, we do, we must and we will.”

Melinda McCrevan joined the water group with her daughter and said that the play got her excited about climate activism.

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“Being around people who care gives me the energy to give more,” she said.

Joanne Lasker watched the theatrics from the sidelines and said she hoped audience members would be moved to action. She also appreciated the artistry and theatrics.

“It reminds me of the things that are really important — our planet and our community,” she said.

Man-made global climate change remains a hot issue — 2016 was the warmest year on record, and on June 1 of this year, President Donald Trump announced he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords.

Interdependence Day co-creator Stephen Katz said that he wanted to make something that would stand out against the backdrop of outraged reaction and, instead, preach cooperation and understanding. He was, he said, trying to avoid the “seduction to repeat bullet points and to spend time simply reacting to the latest shock.”

Attendee Christine Mirabal said that the play was a good reminder of the challenges facing the environment. She said that after the presidential election in November, she has a newfound activist spirit.

“Never politically involved in my life, and now I’m marching and joining protests,” she said.

Andra Rose, a coordinator with Mothers Out Front, said that she hoped the event would inspire people to take individual action around climate change.

“It’s a political act to turn down your thermostat,” she said.

Last year, the activists mapped gas leaks around the city — marking sites with flags and posters. As a result of their campaign, Rose said that Columbia Gas responded and has even started a new leak-testing initiative in the city.

“Focus our attention on the elements that need to come together,” Rose said. “Human beings are one of those elements.”