Postcard from Hardwick: Who has the Power?
When you’re a parent of a student in a small school like Hazen Union Middle and High School in Hardwick, one of the first things you realize is that your kid knows everyone. My older daughter, who graduated two years ago, remarked that by the time her class hit eleventh grade, “We figured out how to get along with each other.”
On the Global Strike for Climate Day, while huge events were happening around the state in Burlington, Montpelier, and Brattleboro, many of the Hazen kids left class and walked down Bridgman Hill to the center of Hardwick. At the main intersection, folks waited to cheer them on. The kids walked along Main Street, turned right onto Lower Cherry Street, and ended up at Atkins Field, where the headquarters of the world-famous granite the area once exported had stood.
Under a brand-new timber-frame pavilion, Hazen senior Kai Gilbert spoke for a few moments. “We are not here to prove a point of rebellion.” She was followed by a few more speakers, including Representative Chip Troiano — “You need to team up with old guys like me.”
Kai’s father, Tom Gilbert, spoke last.
Heading towards 1 p.m., the September sun was delightfully warm but not too hot, with just a whisper of breeze. Monarch butterflies dipped under the pavilion’s high, soaring roof, the shade cool and welcoming. Tom said, “This pavilion is part of the solution,” and then he continued intently and articulately for a handful of minutes. A few kids wandered off, maybe hungry, maybe simply happy to be out of school on such a sunny afternoon.
Previous speakers mentioned the importance of banning plastic bags, making our homes energy efficient, redefining our habits — and it’s true, absolutely, that rehabituating ourselves is an integral piece of lessening our rampart consumption. But on a far deeper level, Tom asked the crowd to consider the market system that drove us, willingly or not, to our breaking-apart climate, a market system of relationships “based on the exploitation and commodification of beings and the separateness of beings.”
Where to go from there?
Rebuild, re-imagine, reclaim relationships.
“Right here is where our power is.”
That power is perhaps, in part, an unplanned one. When you’re a student in a high school with maybe fifty or sixty kids in your graduating class, you learn to smarten up and get along. Without getting along, the future, indeed, appears grim.
Someday, decades hence, perhaps, these kids will remember that walk, on this brilliantly golden gift of a September day. The walk was not a school event, not chaperoned by teachers or parents. When they left the school and walked down the hill, the marchers at first were teenagers and a few younger children, carrying their homemade signs, one student rapping on a snare drum. At the end trailed only their principal, without his customary tie. Save for him, that leg of the journey was just our kids, walking and talking — our kids, full of hope and good will, not entirely sure what lay ahead of them, but pressing onward.