My next hearing is scheduled for Friday, my first in the Superior Court of Concord, NH, for deliberation of options in preparation for the full jury trial for my ‘crime’ of trespassing at the Bow Power Plant, the final coal-powered plant without a shutdown date in New England. I will be there as one of nineteen codefendants, some of us defending ourselves (pro se), most of us defended by our two fabulous attorneys.
In January of 2021, one full year ago, before the hearing during which a judge would announce my sentencing, I had the opportunity to present an allocution to the judge. Because of the pandemic, he had not seen me in person, only on Zoom. The purpose of the allocution was to present background information about myself that might alter his opinion of me and my ‘crime.’ How do you briefly tell another person who you are? Here’s what I wrote:
Dear Judge Kelly:
Here is my attempt at inviting you to get a sense of my character and my motivation. I am 74 years old and this is the first time I have ever been arrested. It has never been my goal to be arrested.
However, I see the seeds of this feature of my character in the memory of when I was 10-12 years old. Raised a Catholic, I was at Mass and really hearing the priest during a sermon on Jesus. As I looked around the huge ornate church, I wondered, “Do all of these people really believe this? Would I have denied him or stood by him?”
Next, I vowed to myself that, should I ever be in that position, I would stand up for what I thought was right, regardless of the cost to me.
I have been a Quaker for 30 years, committed to pacifism. I have used my first amendment rights often, during the Vietnam war in my 20’s, for women’s rights during my 40’s, for social justice during my 60’s, and now for our climate. I never begin by protesting, but by making changes in my own life – for example, reducing my use of plastic and driving an electric car.
I am proud to have Sharron as a friend. Hers was the first gender-based case that Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued in front of the Supreme Court. When Sharron described this to me decades ago, she said that, before RBG accepted her as a client, Sharron had to recognize that she would not be likely to benefit personally, because of the expected time of resolution. That didn’t stop Sharron.
Similarly, for me, reducing climate change is not likely to benefit me personally. The science is clear: we must change the climate path we are now following or the planet will pay a high price.
For many people, grandchildren are a primary reason for speaking up for climate justice. I have no grandchildren; that is not my reason. At my age, I am not likely to reap the benefits of reducing climate change. So, what is my motivation? I care deeply about this planet. I see the damage done by coal, not in myself, but in friends who have asthma. Although I will not personally benefit, I want to do my part: I care deeply about our planet.
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