Quaker-led environmental activists march on Merrimack Station

  • Protesters hang banners on scaffolding obstructing railroad tracks that lead to Merrimack Station, a coal-fired power plant seen in the background, in Bow on Saturday, July 15, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • David Woolpert speaks following a Quaker-led service outside Merrimack Station in Bow on Saturday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ

  • Marla Marcum relays safety information given to her by Eversource employees near the railroad tracks leading to Merrimack Station, a coal-fired power plant, in Bow on Saturday, July 15, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Protesters march during a “Climate Pilgrimage” along railroad tracks that lead to Merrimack Station, a coal-fired power plant, in Bow on Saturday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Minga Claggett-Borne of Cambridge, Mass., talks to a group of about 50 protesters following a Quaker-led worship service outside Merrimack Station, a coal-fired power plant, in Bow on Saturday, July 15, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Published: 7/15/2017 10:18:27 PM

On the seventh day of the Quaker-led “Climate Pilgrimage” across southern New Hampshire, the participants, who were marching for environmental preservation, sat down and rested.

They sat down right in the middle of train tracks leading into Merrimack Station in Bow, beneath scaffolding they had erected and in tents they had set up.

The march, the result of over a year of planning, began July 9 at Schiller Station in Portsmouth and concluded with the sit-down in Bow on Saturday.

The marchers chose Merrimack Station as their final destination and site of their biggest protest for one key reason – it is the last coal-fired plant without a shutdown date in New England.

“What we’re doing is coming here and standing for the world we want to see,” said Katherine Fisher, a Quaker who participated in the last day of the march. “What we’re doing is not so much about specific issues or specific policies, it’s more about our collective liberation from fossil fuels.”

Upon arrival, marchers notified Eversource Energy, the owners of Merrimack Station, of their presence.

Employees from Eversourse warned the protesters of the possible danger of their protest on the train tracks about 1 p.m.

But despite the warnings, the protesters persisted throughout the afternoon, singing old union hymns and conversing to pass the time.

Among those who sat beneath the scaffolding on the tracks was Blair Ellis – who had come from Ann Arbor, Mich., to participate in the march and sit-down.

Ellis said he made the journey to inspire fellow Quakers back in Michigan.

“The Quaker meeting I go to in Ann Arbor has a lot of older people with really radical ideas, but they don’t have the energy or resources to do them,” he said. “I really believe in what we’re doing ... every time I go back to my meeting after doing something like this, they get really inspired.”

Ellis was one of close to 50 marchers who traveled from far and wide to get to Bow. Among those who made the trip to New Hampshire was Minga Claggett-Borne of Massachusetts.

Claggett-Borne said the “Climate Pilgrimage” was a concrete and effective way to raise awareness about the dire state of the Earth’s climate.

“There is denial we are in a serious crisis right now,” she said. “I’ve tried a lot of things – writing to senators, writing the CEO of Eversource, and nothing is going through. I am on the pilgrimage ... to be able to change the thinking, the mentality about climate change.”

At a prayer service before the final leg of the march, done in the shadow of Merrimack Station’s smokestacks, many of the participants expressed similar concerns about the future of Earth and expressed a need to protect what they saw as God’s creation.

During the service, prayers were said for President Donald Trump, asking that he take action to preserve the environment in the wake of his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords.

For many of the participants, climate change was an issue of spiritual importance.

“What we’re doing is bearing witness to our faith,” Claggett-Borne said. “Even though our planet is caught in this fossil fuel system, with God’s help we can find a way out of that. We’re joyfully witnessing another way of living and to the transition we hope will happen.”

Brian Drayton, who participated in the prayer service, said the march helped make a profound statement in favor of environmental protection.

“It’s really a statement about the spiritual condition of the nation and the world on an important set of issues,” he said. “The times are desperate, it’s too easy with a slowly gathering crisis like climate change to feel like we have time to do a little more research … chances aren’t good if we don’t make a dramatic change in our behavior right now.”

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