November 2021 Newsletter
In this Issue
  • Save the Date!
  • Build Back Better - for better and worse
  • ECA Mass Legislative Team Reports
  • ECA Mass Takes to the Streets!
  • ECA and Bill McKibben's New Third Act
  • What We're Reading: Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Build Back Better - for better and worse
By Seth Evans

All eyes are on Glasgow as world leaders convene for the COP26 conference to determine countries' individual and collective next steps for trying to limit carbon emissions to or below net zero by 2050. The good news is that President Biden was able to report to the world that the USA is close to passing legislation — the Build Back Better Bill (formerly known as the Reconciliation Package) — that would get the country close to reaching Biden’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. The bill, whose $555 billion investment represents the largest single investment in our clean energy economy in history, would include tax credits and subsidies across all sectors, including buildings, transportation, industry, electricity, agriculture, and climate-smart practices across lands and waters, while advancing environmental justice. For more specifics about the climate change aspects of the bill, see link here

The bad news is that the bill is still just a framework to which further changes will likely be made before a vote is held. And it seems that the backing of Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia has yet to be secured, with Manchin stating on November 1 that he, “will not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact.” Each of the 50 Democratic senators’ votes will be needed to pass the bill through the reconciliation process, so gaining Manchin’s support remains critical. He also continues to press progressive Democrats to allow a vote on the bipartisan traditional infrastructure bill this week, a vote which House progressives have vowed not to take until the Build Back Better bill is passed by the Senate.

Manchin has already succeeded in taking one major element out of the original bill: a clean energy standard for utilities known as the CEPP, which would have incentivized electric utilities to utilize clean energy and penalize them for their continuing use of fossil fuels. While some climate change activists are skeptical that we can reach 50% reductions by 2030 without this measure, others claim that there is a narrow path to do so utilizing the subsidies and tax credits mentioned above, alongside a series of executive actions that could be taken by the President.

Retained in the Build Back Better framework — so far — are funds for a Civilian Climate Corps — modeled after the New Deal-era CCC — and a public Green Bank with a $29 billion development fund that would directly finance green projects and be used to leverage other private investment.

Stay tuned to this space — or any reputable news source(!) — for updates. The drama is likely to continue until the end of November.
ECA Mass Legislative Team Reports

In October the Legislative Team presented written testimony to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on the Future of Heat bills (H.3298 and S.2148). These bills would provide regulatory support and incentives for utilities to install and operate the pipes and pumps that are needed for networked geothermal heating for residential buildings. Eversource and National Grid are already planning two demonstration projects on this technology. Networked geothermal heating offers utilities a business model for transitioning from gas to emission-free heating. With several of our allies, we also expressed support for a pair of bills (H.3354 and S.2179) aimed at eliminating gas leaks. 

Susannah Hatch, coordinator of the New England for Offshore Wind coalition, spoke at our October chapter meeting. She provided an overview of the powerful potential for wind energy in New England and in Massachusetts in particular. A video of her presentation is on our website. (It starts at about 1 hour into the recording.)

The Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, Rep. Jeffrey Roy, recently published an extensive report on and endorsement of wind power for the State, and Governor Charlie Baker has announced his intention to seek $750M to support wind power investments.

Here’s a statement from Rep. Roy’s report indicating how positive he is about wind for Massachusetts:
“Massachusetts is uniquely prepared to capitalize on the nation’s emerging offshore wind industry and become the ‘Saudi Arabia of offshore wind.’ …Massachusetts waters have the largest technical offshore wind potential of any state in the contiguous U.S. and has the technical potential to produce [enough electricity to power 200,000,000 homes].”

The report may lead to a strong wind bill as early as December. 
ECA Mass Takes to the Streets!
By Tina Grosowsky

On Friday, October 29, I gathered with climate activist Bill McKibben and peers who are members of Third Act (his new initiative).* We joined forces with young people from the Boston area for a demonstration in front of Liberty Mutual’s building on Berkeley Street and followed with a march to JP Morgan Chase Bank’s building in downtown Boston. This was one of many actions happening around the country, as Third Act is joining young people to demand an immediate end to the funding of fossil fuel expansion.

Youth leaders have called on our generation to stand beside them. And this recent piece, “Youth and Age Unite to Demand That Banks Stop Lending to Big Oil,” by Vidya Muthupillai (a 2021 high school grad from Houston, Texas) and Bill McKibben, makes the case for this kind of cross-generational work.

If you didn’t make it to the rally, start by writing to a local bank branch manager, telling them it’s time to stop loaning our money to the fossil fuel industry. We needn’t be shy in saying we won’t rest until they change course.

*Read more about McKibben’s Third Act below.
By Maiyim Baron

ECA Mass members Dorothy Weitzman, Maiyim Baron and Barbara Martin at the Newton Harvest Fair on Sunday, October 17, introduced crowds of people to ECA Mass and our work. We love participating in activities like this, such as tabling at farmers markets and other fairs, and we'll do more as things open up. Let Maiyim know if you want to join in the fun too.
ECA and Bill McKibben's New Third Act

By Paul Dryfoos
Elders Climate Action was founded on the principle that we older Americans have a special responsibility to take action on climate change on behalf of our grandchildren, future generations and all life. Now, a new national movement will bring additional energy, visibility and wisdom to our mission. The new organizationThird Actwas announced by renowned climate activist and author Bill McKibben in a September 1 New Yorker article.

That day, McKibben tweeted “We're going to try and organize 'experienced Americans'i.e., people over 60 like mearound issues of climate justice, racial justice, economic justice. Our generations have done their share of damage; we're on the verge of leaving the world a worse place than we found it.”

He went on to explain in the New Yorker article that “The only way I can think of to meet this challenge is with more mass organizing. Young people are now fully engaged and leading the way; we’re seeing remarkable activism in frontline and indigenous communities. But there’s a group that, I think, is not pulling its weight, and it’s a group I’m now a part of. Call us “experienced Americans”—the baby boomers and silent generations that make up a huge percentage of the population, own a remarkable share of its financial assets, and vote in large numbers.”

In that article, McKibben cited Elders Climate Action as a living example of what he’s talking about. We are very grateful for the recognition, and excited that McKibben and other high-profile figures are bringing broad public recognition and a sense of urgency to the potential for “experienced Americans” to wield their economic and political power on behalf of a livable climate and environmental justice. The new organization, Third Act, has identified climate change and voting rights as its initial organizing priorities, putting it in perfect alignment with ECA and our parent organization, Elders Action Network. Leaders from both organizations have already met to discuss the potential for close collaboration. Stay tuned to ECA newsletters for updates, and learn more at
What We're Reading
Bewilderment: A Novel
By Richard Powers (W. W. Norton & Co., 2021)
Readers of Richard Powers’ previous novel, Pulitzer Prize winner The Overstory, were treated to a rich, baroque story, in which nine characters and their backstories eventually converged around protecting an old-growth forest. In the process, Powers challenged his readers to rethink their own relationships to the natural world, and trees in particular. His newest novel, Bewilderment, is claustrophobic by comparison – not surprisingly since it was written during the pandemic – focusing on just two characters, a father (Theo) and son (Robin), and totaling only 200 or so pages (versus 600). Powers still manages, however, to raise profound questions about how humans connect – or don’t – to the natural universe and to do so in a poignant, compelling narrative.

Theo, the father, is a widowed astro-biologist; his nine-year-old son, Robin, is a sensitive, neuro-atypical child who shares his late mother’s intense empathy for all living creatures and the natural world(s) they inhabit. But this radical empathy makes Robin an outlier in school and subject to bullying, which he, in turn, reacts to in ways that are increasingly unacceptable (e.g. throwing a thermos at his friend’s face), furthering his isolation and threatening his ability to stay in school. The story is set in a near-future dystopia – which seems like an extension of Trump’s first term – where a lack of compassion for the environment and for a behaviorally challenged child make the father’s effort to help his son remain in school that much more challenging.

Halfway through the book, Theo’s search for ways to help Robin remain in school lead him to an experimental neuro-feedback treatment program. The treatment allows Robin to re-pattern his thinking and emotional habits after the test subject – his deceased mother. How Theo changes as a result is the focus of the second half of the book. Science fiction or realism? Both, it turns out.

Another diversion from the otherwise straightforward plot is offered through brief intermittent journeys to fictitious but astro-biologically “feasible” exo-planets that Theo leads his son on through his storytelling. This too might seem like science fiction, but it is so in the best sense, challenging the reader to think about life in a broader way, and immersing the reader in the type of geological time-based “big history” that so fascinates Robin (and his dad).

The book, like The Overstory, raises the profound, and profoundly discomfiting question: what does a “normal” human relationship to the natural world look like when the course of human history is leading to nature’s destruction? 

-- Seth Evans


Do you have a book review suggestion? Send your ideas to Newsletter Editor Diane Rapaport.
This Newsletter is Published for Members and Friends of the
Elders Climate Action - Massachusetts Chapter
ECA Massachusetts is a chapter of the national Elders Climate Action. We are a movement of elders committed to making our voices heard... to change our nation's policies while there is still time to avoid catastrophic changes in the Earth's climate. Visit the ECA Massachusetts website, event calendar, and Facebook page to learn more about our chapter's activities and climate news. JOIN ECA MASSACHUSETTS AND STAY CONNECTED! Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, and for more active participation, sign up to receive Action Alerts and meeting announcements. Fill out our subscription form.