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Rally calls for halt on large-scale solar

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

GREENFIELD — One leg of a statewide rally calling for a moratorium on large-scale solar projects was held at Energy Park Saturday afternoon.

The Honoring the Land rally, which was sponsored by the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe, Save the Pine Barrens and Save Massachusetts Forests, was held from 1 to 4 p.m. and featured speakers advocating for the protection of forests in the state. More specifically, speakers highlighted the effects of clearcutting forests or tearing up fertile farmland to create space for solar arrays. The other leg of the statewide effort was held in Wareham.

Attendees were urged to sign a petition, which rally organizer Janet Sinclair said will be brought to Gov. Charlie Baker once they receive enough signatures. The petition calls for the state to stop using taxpayers’ money to finance solar projects larger than 5 acres, according to a press release. The moratorium would give municipalities a chance to consider solar bylaws while also encouraging rooftop solar arrays.

“We will be bringing the petition to Boston and delivering it to the governor,” Sinclair said.

She said this was the first real effort to

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organize a rally behind this movement and they would like to host more events in the future.

“This is the first attempt,” Sinclair said. “We want to keep circulating … and engaging with more towns.”

Fred Beddall, who is a farmer and was one of the rally’s speakers, said he isn’t against solar energy as a whole because it is good for the environment, but corporations clearing natural woodlands results in a net loss for the world.

“I s n’t green energy supposed to be good?” Beddall said after his speech. “Not when it’s all for profit.”

Beddall said solar belongs on the roofs of houses and farmers need to take action before their land is gone.

“They say if your house is on fire, you save what you love most,” Beddall said in his remarks. “Well, our planet is on fire. Let’s save our land.”

Bill Stubblefield, a Wendell resident and a Harvardtrained biologist, said forests are essential to biodiversity and environmental health.

“All natural ecosystems are important and worth protecting,” Stubblefield said in his speech. “Forests, especially so because of their great diversity. … The older, the bigger and the more connected our forests are, the better they are able to help mitigate climate disruption and biodiversity collapse.”

He added that removing forests, even for green energy, is a bad choice because trees have unique abilities that deal with harmful gases.

“Our forests are of increasingly critical importance as we face the dual crises of climate disruption and mass extinction,” Stubblefield said. “Destroying forests to produce energy, even solar energy, just d o e s n’t make sense when we consider their irreplaceable ability to sequester carbon.”

Stubblefield said increasing pressure to build more solar arrays to wean the state off of fossil fuels has unintended consequences.

“It is painfully shortsighted that we subsidize such activity,” Stubblefield said. “Let us first use all the land already dominated by humans, such as parking lots, roofs, landfills and brownfields. Come talk to me when those sites are fully deployed, not before.”

He warned “nature is a necessity, not a luxury,” and said forests need all the help people can give to ensure the environment survives.

“Forests can, and must, play an important role in mitigating some of the terrible consequences of climate destruction and biodiversity collapse,” Stubblefield said. “We need every one of you. The struggle for a livable future needs every one of you.”

David Crews, managing editor of the Wild Northeast journal, said he traveled from Bennington, Vt., to seek inspiration and to see “what kind of activism” was taking place in Massachusetts.

He added clear-cutting of forests is a problem across New England and the idea of cutting down trees for green energy is strange. He also said he would like to see the younger generation more involved in the movement.

“I see it as a problem across our region,” Crews said. “I’d like to see more of this. ... I wish I saw more young people here.” Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

Bill Stubblefield, a Wendell resident and Harvard-trained biologist, gives a speech at Saturday’s Honoring the Land rally at Energy Park in Greenfield.

STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

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