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A biweekly roundup of articles from the Massachusetts independent press

Commentary: The Mass Environmental Movement Will Benefit From More Actions Like XR Boston’s Recent Hanscom Field Outing 
I have had mixed feelings about the tactics and apparent strategy of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion since a Boston chapter started up a few years ago, an offshoot of the UK-based activist network of the same name. As someone who spent many years in the trenches of the broad ecology movement myself, I think that most of its factions have done a pretty lousy job reaching out to people that don’t live in university and/or wealthy towns and who aren’t part of (or training to be part of) the professional managerial class (and above). XR Boston has seemed to continue working off the same broken script as many predecessor organizations in that regard—which I naturally found to be unfortunate.

However, two recent articles in the Mass independent press—“Protesters block private jets at Hanscom Airfield” in the Lexington Observer and “Activists continue push to derail Hanscom expansion” in the Lincoln Squirrel—demonstrate that when groups like Extinction Rebellion play to their strengths (in this case, conducting nonviolent civil disobedience at an elite institution in a rich town), their activism can be quite effective.

And indeed they couldn’t have picked a more perfect target: part of a former Air Force base (abutted by a non-flying Air Force research base), now used mainly as an exclusive private airfield by wealthy companies and executives, that is planning to add no less than 17 new hangers for outrageously environmentally destructive private jets.

On April 20, XR activists and allies blocked some private jets from leaving the field for a time, pointing out that they “contribute 10 times more carbon pollution than commercial airlines.” They scored a definite win with the action in the court of public opinion, getting a bunch of solid press hits and adding heft to the ongoing letter and lobbying campaign spearheaded by the 80-plus organization coalition Stop Private Jet Expansion at Hanscom or Anywhere to stop the new hangers from being built. There were some arrests by local police, but the price of the legal battle to come should be more than worth it as a stepping stone to eventually winning the campaign. 

While still being part of an uphill battle that is unlikely to succeed in the coming months or years, the action is far more focused, positive, and thoughtful than earlier actions by XR Boston that struck me as simultaneously out-of-touch and desperate. As when the group has blocked traffic in downtown Boston—the type of action that not only targets the wrong people (working- and middle-class commuters) but then drives them away from the environmental movement in droves. Effectively demobilizing the populace rather than mobilizing it.

Here’s hoping that XR Boston and allies continue along this path and pull off more focused successful actions that advance the cause of environmentalism—expanding the incipient movement’s reach, popularity, and power as they go.

“Las Playas Son Del Pueblo”: Caribbean Artists Contest Gentrification At The Mead
The Shoestring
“[W]hose islands are these, the show asks, and how will these artists make the battles visible?”

Jazz Album Reviews: New Sets of Previously Unreleased Music — Art Tatum, Yusef Lateef, and Others
The Arts Fuse
Lovers of late 20th century jazz rejoice!

Audit finds lack of transparency in New Bedford court records
New Bedford Light
Crusading Mass State Auditor DiZoglio puts public criminal case records transparency in her sites.

Man who planted fake bomb in a Harvard plaza, recruited from Craigslist for plot, gets probation
Cambridge Day
A bizarre extortion plot against Harvard University foiled. Happily, no one was hurt.

Tower students bring supplies and curiosity to Cuba
Marblehead Current
Not a typical spring break for Marblehead eighth graders.

Superintendent warns of layoffs, citing a $2 million budget shortfall
The Plymouth Independent
Plymouth’s superintendent aims to make significant cuts to the city’s education budget by axing 30 jobs—mirroring struggles in municipalities around the Commonwealth.

Select Board pauses on affirming school budget ahead of Town Meeting
The Concord Bridge
As we’ve seen elsewhere in recent weeks, even wealthy towns are having trouble balancing their ed budgets.

1) Protesters block private jets at Hanscom Airfield
The Lexington Observer

2) Activists continue push to derail Hanscom expansion
The Lincoln Squirrel
Full commentary on both articles above.

City hosts community planting days for new Miyawaki Forests
Worcester Guardian
Urban areas have been noted by climate scientists for their “heat island” effect where, with insufficient green space, they tend to become hotter than the rural areas surrounding them. Now Worcester is experimenting with planting special forests meant to help reverse that effect.

A food forest takes root on a Jones Hill side street
Dorchester Reporter
A local nonprofit builds its 10th unusual permaculture garden tailored to neighbors’ wishes in Boston.

Landmarks Commission Not Happy with Mayor Wu, and Handling of White Stadium & Arborway
The community fight over White Stadium heats up as a city commission criticizes city government.

Endless punishment for the crime of existing
Worcester Sucks and I Love It
Bill Shaner reflects at length on the Supreme Court’s possible move to effectively criminalize homelessness

Local partnership brews up cannabis-infused beer
Bay State Banner
Boston brewers partner with a Boston cannabis dispensary to release a hybrid IPA on 4/20.

BC sweethearts serve sandwiches and community at Newton’s Sandwich Works
The Newton Beacon
The most notable thing about this fun feature is that the Newton Beacon is partnering with the nearby Boston College student newspaper the Heights

IndyMass is produced for HorizonMass, the independent, student-driven, news outlet of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, by Jason Pramas and is syndicated by BINJ’s MassWire news service. Copyright 2024 Jason Pramas.

Jason Pramas is executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and editor-in-chief of HorizonMass.

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