By Cooper Drummond
BEACON – Beacon Climate Action Now (BCAN) is a local climate justice group. On Saturday, they held the second annual Taproots Festival, a public event to bring awareness to political and community solutions for the ongoing climate crisis.
“I just think with the climate crisis, it is so horrifying, that the only thing that can really give you hope is organizing with your friends and neighbors and community. It is like the antidote to despair,” said Lena Bilik, a BCAN member, organizer of Taproots and a Beacon resident.
“This is a really cool opportunity for folks to connect with one another,” said Erin Ashoka, one of the founders of BCAN and a resident of Beacon. “This event is a community space and is completely free. We have a policy that nothing costs money here, you just show up and you have a great time. There are things for your kids to do, there’s food, there’s opportunities to learn about and kind of co-create a vision for the future we are trying to build together.”
“We think about climate justice pretty broadly… We want electrified green, renewable housing. But also, people need to be able to afford to live in that housing and stay in communities. So, for us, that is all related,” said Bilik.
That line of thought led to this year’s Taproots theme as the Beautiful Futures Campaign, which strives for green jobs and infrastructure, housing for all and livable, equitable communities.
Bilik says around 225 people came to the Yard in Beacon on Saturday to celebrate Taproots. People could enter any of the booths to learn more about solutions to some of these issues presented in the campaign.
One of them was the Beacon Prison Rides Project, a volunteer-run organization which provides free rides from the Beacon Train Station to people who wish to visit family members in Beacon-area prisons.
“It’s very expensive for them to get a taxi or Uber approximately $120 round trip,” said Nan Dempster, a project volunteer and Beacon resident. “You can do it as often as you like, or as infrequently as you would like. It is so important to keep people connected, families connected, and this is one way that we can help.”
One of the climate issues people were able to learn more about was a proposal to expand a fracked Iroquois Pipeline in the Hudson Valley.
“It would significantly increase the amount of gas that gets pushed through an old aging pipeline, and it would expand compressor stations in Dover and Athens. This is very dangerous for our climate, for our health,” said Emily Skydel, a resident of Brooklyn who is originally from the Hudson Valley.
“When we talk about our beautiful future, we kind of see Taproots as like a model of what a beautiful future could look like. You look around and there’s free food. There’s music, there is organizing, there’s educational activities for kids around climate justice, there’s ways to get connected and involved,” said Bilik.
“Just Beacon cannot create this vision for our future that we are striving for. It requires us to be in coalition with one another, it requires lots of people to be working from lots of different angles. I think this festival really showcases all of the amazing work that is happening in Beacon in the Hudson Valley, and the opportunity for us to be in coalition in terms of reaching our community together,” said Ashoka.
BCAN has seen some level of legislative success despite it being a little over a year old.
“Last year, our main campaign was banning gas hookups to the new construction in Beacon. We were able to do that, and it then also passed at the state level,” said Bilik.