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Transitioning to a greener pasture: ‘LIVING THE CHANGE’ Fair

"This fair will showcase key organizations, sustainable businesses, and empowered individuals in the Berkshires who are creating a livable future–one that is healthier, more prosperous for everyone, and more socially connected." -- Judy Eddy

Kinder Morgan’s announcement that the NED pipeline project has been suspended is good news for the area, and especially  for everyone who has worked hard to fight this project on economic as well as environmental grounds. Even though the company does not cite any relationship of its decision to the protests here, any such development can make us more hopeful that the voices calling for a rapid transition to clean energy infrastructure are having an effect. Climate Activism can be a discouraging undertaking, but it seems that the local and national momentum is picking up. Each such turning point, as we are seeing now, adds to the conviction that we can generate enough reasoning and energy, to be successful in pushing our state and country into a clean-energy future.

Pittsfield — On the eve of the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015, two Berkshire women organized a film series to address the spiritual components of climate change. After the films, Uli Nagel and Judy Fox moderated a rich discussion with local movers and shakers, all of whom shared a common desire to co-create a public event to highlight sustainable community and celebrate the intense climate activism that had blossomed in the Berkshires. The first annual LIVING THE CHANGE: Climate Action and Sustainability Fair was born, to take place Saturday, May 7, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. at Shire City Sanctuary in Pittsfield.

According to co-founder Uli Nagel, this festival is intended to “help strengthen and energize people individually and collectively by helping them make new connections with others working toward the same goals. We want to create a space where people can be curious and interested in the ways that climate change asks all of us to change.”

Judy Fox adds that she’s hoping that “people will become more informed and educated about what’s happening and what they can do about it.”

350MA’s Berkshire Node, one of the fair’s sponsors, has been discussing how to convey the urgency of climate awareness and how to inspire behavioral changes that individuals, organizations, and governments need to take. “We have seen that people, once they understand what’s at stake, really want to help and get involved, but they’re overwhelmed and don’t know exactly what to do to help make change. We want to share with people how climate action plays out in our community and across the state and region; how much fun it can be, and how much hope it instills,” says Judy Eddy, a 350MA-Berkshires volunteer and Outreach and Education Director for Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT).

Adds Ms. Eddy, “People don’t always know what to do, where to plug in. This fair will showcase key organizations, sustainable businesses, and empowered individuals in the Berkshires who are creating a livable future–one that is healthier, more prosperous for everyone, and more socially connected. The organizations, businesses, and presenters featured at the fair bring together an incredible degree of expertise and enthusiasm for positive action around climate change. And if anyone is looking to bring their passion and skills to the biggest challenge of our times, this is the place to be on May 7th.”

Uli Nagel hopes the festival will “catalyze more activity in the area and be like a creative spark for the Berkshires. We need all the creativity and community participation we can get, especially in light of the multiple environmental fronts currently facing the Berkshires: two proposed pipelines, GE and the river, high cancer rates, etc.”

According to Judy Fox, “ The event is in part a celebration of what’s already happened and a way to re-energize ourselves for the complex and laborious work ahead.”

The public is also invited to a DJ dance party from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. Weather permitting, Shire City Sanctuary will be hosting a Food Truck Rodeo during the day with various food vendors and bands playing outdoors.

In addition to fun, the main thrust of the event is to help Berkshire residents understand how every component of our living system is interconnected, and that climate activism is one of the doorways to an improved economy, a resilient community, and a sustainable future. The sustainability expo, open from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., will include organizations such as BerkShares, Berkshire Co-op Market, Berkshire Grown, Northeast Organic Farming Association, Center for EcoTechnology, BEAT, 350MA (state and local), and businesses such as Berkshire Photovoltaic Services, Northeast Solar, and others.

Simultaneously throughout the day, there will be a series of community dialogues with local thought leaders such as Laurie Lane-Zucker, who will present on his Impact Entrepreneur Center for Social and Environmental Innovation; solar installer and activist Chris Kilfoyle; the Schumacher Center for a New Economics; and two panels of activists.

There will also be a variety of nature-oriented childrens’ activities to celebrate and learn through the arts, led by Flying Deer Nature Center and the Berkshire Co-op Market. Marmalade Productions will entertain young and old with creative puppetry.

The festival organizers are united in their belief that the Berkshires are an ideal place for this kind of community and social transformation, and that 2016 is the perfect time for this event. Climate activists are coming out of the woodwork to defend conservation lands here in Berkshire County and across the Commonwealth, as the gas pipelines threaten protected forests with polluting infrastructure and private properties with eminent domain. This struggle has become emblematic of the conflict between the dominant fossil fuel model and a new, collectively managed, people-run, clean, renewable energy system.

Both the statewide and the local 350MA organizations are providing leadership for this major societal transition. Local members, whose numbers exceed 1500, have been educating themselves for two years on the technicalities and toxicities of pipelines, on electricity rates, solar energy, jobs, the politics of corporations vs. people, and more. They serve the greater community by bringing others up to speed in understanding what has been happening in the region and locally, and by helping to jumpstart the green economy here in the Berkshires.

Says Al Blake, another activist and event organizer, “A green economy is currently being blocked by the powers that want to continue to benefit from fossil fuels, the result being environmental destruction, pollution, and ill health in exchange for outrageous profits. They are standing in the way of true progress.”

Judy Eddy is “hopeful that this festival will show our community how much forward-thinking activity is already going on, and how a fully supported green economy will create the jobs we need in the Berkshires, Massachusetts, and the U.S.”

Says Uli Nagel of the festival, “We are the designers of our future.”

The organizers and participants of LIVING THE CHANGE are planning for a joyous day of celebration, networking, dialoguing, brainstorming, art-making, education, and fun, and they encourage families with children, families celebrating Mother’s Day (or Mother Earth Day), and anyone with an interest in healing the planet and creating resilient community to participate on May 7th for the all-day celebration.

Shire City Sanctuary is located at 40 Melville Street, off North Street. The fair is from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., with a Food Truck Rodeo and music going on all day outside (weather permitting), the film “This Changes Everything” at 5:30 p.m., and a DJ Dance Party from 8 p.m. – 11 p.m.. The fair is free and open to the public as is the film; the Dance Party is $5 at the door. Donations are appreciated and all proceeds will go to 350MA-Berkshires. For more information, email, call (413) 329-3514, or visit the group’s Facebook page.

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