SeaChange: We All Live Downstream

>> The SeaChange Flotilla Has Landed In NYC! <<


After two weeks on the Hudson and a successful circumnavigation of the island of Manhattan, the seachange climate justice flotilla is home. Join us for a series of on-the-water events and discussions in the week leading up to the People's Climate March.


Recent NYC Events:


Friday, September 12 -> Landing at the Inwood Canoe Club, NYC


Circumnavigation of Manhattan

Boat clubs and experienced independent paddlers, kayakers, canoers are invited to join us on our two-day Circ. Get in touch or join us at our launch spots.


Saturday, September 13 -> Circ Part I
Departing Inwood Canoe Club at 6:30 am, rest stop at pier 66 (26th Street), arriving at Pier 25/26 by 5 pm. **RAINED OUT>Night action and landing party at Hudson River Park with the light brigade at 7:30 PM (Pier 26)

Sunday, September 14 -> Circ Part II
Departing Pier 26 at 7:00 am. Rest stop and press opp in Brooklyn (East River State Park, North 7th and Kent Avenues) from 11 am to 12 pm. Rendez-vous with Rude Mechanical Orchestra and North Brooklyn Boat Club at Newtown Creek at 1 pm (viewing from Long Island City at Annabelle Basin / 11th Street Basin at 1:30 pm). Landing at the Inwood Canoe Club, Manhattan, at 7 pm.)

SeaChange Events at the Floating Library


Wednesday, September 17 -> SeaChange Presents "We All Live DownStream" Roundtables: Water and Climate Conversations at the Floating Library (The Lilac, Pier 25, NYC)
More information at floatinglibrary.org

Thursday, September 18 -> SeaChange Office Hours at the Floating Library and Roundtable: Making it Happen (The Lilac, Pier 25, NYC)
More information at floatinglibrary.org

Friday, September 19 -> Disembarkment Ceremony at the Floating Library (The Lilac, Pier 25, NYC).
More information at floatinglibrary.org


Climate Convergence Weekend


Saturday, September 20 -> Water Ceremony and Boat Bloc
Water Ceremony at 10 AM at the Lilac, Pier 25, NYC, then follow the Boat Bloc up the East River for an on-the-water rally at 2 PM. Bring your sailboat/solarboat.
More information here.


Sunday, September 21 -> People's Climate March
More information at peoplesclimate.org/march



Instas (Follow @seachange2014)

Tweets (Follow @seachange2014)

Journal

Oil and Water on The Two Way River: A Journey Down the Hudson in a Flotilla of Paper Boats

by Kevin Buckland

Our paper canoes sit low in the water - you feel each wave like a new land rising beneath you, pulling you up and into some improbable future.

We are in the untold times. Some of our species has managed to rocket the planet out of the geologic age we were born into, and to create our own: It is time to create new mythologies for the Anthropocene. For the first two weeks of September, a flotilla of handmade paper canoes journeyed the improbable waters of the Hudson River from Troy to Manhattan, weaving stories of resistance and resilience on a voyage to the People’s Climate March. The flotilla’s journey wove together many distinct stories of local environmental threats in the context of a common and looming global crisis.

As a generation with the mixed fortunes of being alive in an age with both cheap weekend flight packages and rising sea levels, we have no choice but to embrace the improbability of this moment. We are in a tiny window of opportunity within which we can determine if the climate crisis will be merely a major crisis or a complete catastrophe for our planet. This is an improbable situation, and many move straight from denial to hopelessness; but it is not an impossible situation. We must inhabit that sliver of hope, and enact stories inside it.

The past two weeks I have lived this improbable paper story, voyaging the two-water waters of the Hudson River with a band of fellow dreamers. By enacting the dream - we awoke, and saw the magnitude of both the beauty and the danger that surrounds us. We saw the mist that rises over the river at sunrise and the steam that rose from Indian Point’s cooling tower; we heard the sound of a stork’s wings flapping above our heads and the warning whistle of the explosive train-units as they hurtle past intersections; we learned the surface of the water and its depths. I have returned from this journey with a new sense of scale of the danger and an understanding of the depths of what might be lost. In New York we are gambling our entire River: high stakes for another decade of living a dying American dream.

Our route began in Troy - chosen for its forgotten history of paper boat making rather than its name’s epic connotations. Quickly we realized we were inadvertently following the exact route of Global Partners’s proposed “virtual pipeline” that uses a series of trains, barges and trucks to bring crude oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota through Albany and Newburgh, and down to the New York Metropolitan area. Currently and stealthily, this trickle of oil is flooding along the river: 40 times more crude oil is already being transported down the Hudson than it was four years ago. New proposals have been filed for new heating centers that would allow crude oil and tar sands from Alberta to be processed in Newburgh and Albany, then loaded onto barges and sent downstream. “The problem we’re facing is that with the tremendous and increasing volume of crude oil being transported throughout the Hudson Valley, a spill is inevitable” says Kate Hudson of Riverkeeper. An oil tanker has already run aground in December 2012, carrying about as much oil as spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster, and New York State has seen at least four derailments in the span of just three months. A spill anywhere along this “virtual pipeline” would mean disaster for the river, what doesn’t spill and is burned means disaster for our climate. We are being bribed into a lose-lose situation.

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Our very first day of the journey, local organizers in Albany showed us where the long black trains are parked - just yards from housing apartments and playgrounds. Railway workers call these the “Bomb Trains”, because the railcars become pressurized along their journey, becoming volatile and explosive. An explosion in Albany, the like the one in Lac Megantic in 2013, could mean up to 5,000 dead. A retired MetroNorth worker told us such a disaster was only a matter of time, that these were time bombs running along an underfunded and rotting rail infrastructure - an accident waiting to happen. Every night of our journey we camped along side of the river, we were always within range. Many people live with this illegal (for the railcars aren’t rated to take pressurized contents) menace. A rupture in one railcar could set off a chain-reaction across the railcars, could spill into the river, could set the river on fire for days. Our entire watershed could become a casualty to Global Partners’ bottom line.

I shudder to think of a spill: crude oil sinking to where the massive sturgeon feed on the bottom of the river, or the lighter Bakken Crude floating to the top with the herons and lilies bathe in moonlight, and where we swam. In minutes, a spill could erase the decades of devotion that is returning health to the Hudson - a sticky layer of flames pushed to and fro by the river’s two-way tides, the river boiling under a blanket of death. This could happen at any moment. Why do we play this game if the stakes are so high? 250,000 people’s drinking water comes from the Hudson - water is a right, not a privilege; it is the ecological ground for all life, not an unregulated highway for corporate profits. Each day of our journey I fell deeper in love with the beauty of this river-that-flows-both-ways; to risk it seems unbearable.

At night the Aphrodite oil barge, like some ominous pendulum, with 9.6 million barrels of crude in her belly, swings up and down the river at regular intervals, just part of the 25 million gallons of oil that is already making its way down the Hudson River each week. Its name - “Aphrodite”: goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation - scared us in its irony, just as the names of the proposed fracked gas pipelines that cross the Hudson: Algonquin, Iroquois, Pilgrim. The imperialism of greed threatens to reclaim even our past.  

Towards the end of the journey, we caught an evening glimpse of Manhattan, its lights shone in the distance like a cubist landscape even from well before the Tappan Zee Bridge; for three days we quietly approached it - the buildings growing slowly in scale until they towered over our small boats. Early on, our journey had adopted the motto: “We All Live Downstream”, acknowledging that all of our waters are connected - they circulate, infiltrate, rain, freeze and flow throughout the ages. What we do to the water, we do to ourselves. Our arrival in Manhattan localized this adage - here we saw not only a city perched on the end of a river, but also a city at the end of a massive and hidden infrastructure. What had been invisible was suddenly all around us. The grandiose immortality of this “city that never sleeps” requires a revising when you have seen the risks required to keep it lit-up and zooming down the avenues. It no longer seems like some autonomous beast, rather an aging boiler that requires constant fueling; a city that has enslaved us to its own designed addictions. Inside the glass buildings, there are businessmen taking grave gambles with things that do not belong to them, raking in rewards but taking none of the risk. They move money to stoke the fires to keep this city from sleeping, but I remember what Sandy did to this city-that-never-sleeps when it opened New York’s skies to the stars again.

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On our last day, we paddled quietly down the West Side of the island of Manhattan, watching trees grow into skyscrapers and back down again to humbler brick buildings. As we passed you could see up the streets far into the heart of the city, at 42nd street the neon glow of Times Square blared out even along the water. I wondered what is burned to make the electricity to keep those vital advertisements illuminated. The current whisked us quickly by.

The skyscrapers seem minuscule when you know the size of this ribbon of river that flows the length of our two week journey. We had begun to measure distances in days, and this city is only a day to paddle around. From the water, New York City doesn’t seem so invincible. It hangs low, inviting a brave wave to take a shortcut from the East River across to the brackish Hudson. I had seen the whole downtown darkened by such waters only two years ago - despite the great height of our buildings we will not be able to escape into the sky.

The tasks our generations currently face should not be underestimated, as the organizers of the People’s Climate March state - to change everything it takes everyone. We know this world is changing - chemically, politically, economically, socially, physically - how we react to those changes is the only thing we still control.

If you pay close attention on a tidal river, there are moments when you can feel the sea change beneath you. A split second when the river hovers, unmoving, neither ebbing nor flowing. Your boat lingers in a moment, but only for a moment. By the next time your paddle hits the water everything is in motion again, slowly at first, but surely. We are all in this pivotal moment as a global community.  Whether we decide to push on against the current that is flowing increasingly against us, or we change course and let the wise currents pull us easily into the future that wants to be.  

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—-

Take Action! You are part of this story:

Join us on Monday September 22nd for #FloodWallStreet, a direct action aimed at the economic causes of the ecological crisis.

And/Or tell our government what you think about crude oil transport on the Hudson here.

We only have until September 30th to submit public comments. If we get enough support on this, we could stop this project before it gets out of control.

For more on the SeaChange Voyage visit www.seachange2014.tumblr.com




The Loud River: Observing the Bomb Trains From the Water

by Paula Z. Segal

The Hudson River is hugged by trains. Somehow, in years of criss-crossing over it, hiking up its vistas, swimming in it and occasionally rafting along it, I never noticed that. In photos, when the water is still, the river looks silent, a giant with a smooth skin, dancing a tidal waltz in its sleep. But photos lie. The Hudson is a loud river.

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Facing East. Photo by Paula Z. Segal

I joined the SeaChange Flotilla for sixteen human-powered miles from Newburgh to Manitou, exactly 1/10 of the entire journey. In Newburgh, I slept on the porch of the Newburgh Boat Club, a club on city parks property threatened with demolition to make way for a deep-water port to transfer oil from rail to tanker. A google image from the air is instructive here: https://www.google.com/maps/@41.4948174,-74.0034107,5571m/data=!3m1!1e3.
Note the contrast between the pastoral east bank of the river and the industrial west. Income maps of the regions tell a familiar story - the poorer communities are the ones who did not have the resources to resist the siting of the infrastructure along their shore. The moon was full, the trains hummed all night in rhythm with the industrial facility just up river. There were cicadas but the night orchestra was so clearly industrial that I woke in the middle of the night sure that the moonlight was just another flood lamp left on all night in an employee parking lot.
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Learning about the bomb trains and the proposed transfer station just a mile down river where each car would be driven into an oven to heat it up so that the oil got viscous enough to flow out. Photo by Paula Z. Segal

At the evening presentation, while Philip Musegaas from Riverkeeper showed images of the catastrophic effects of accidents with trains just like these from other sections of the transport network, at least six freight trains went by, so loud that speakers paused to cede the airspace.* These are cars full of volatile oil contained in vessels designed to carry corn syrup and orange juice. At dawn the next day, we crossed the river, carrying our tenting gear and water and snacks. I started counting trains and lost track by mid-morning. Dozens. Most of them “bomb trains,” with some freight cars mixed in.
 
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Bannerman’s Island. Photo by Paula Z. Segal
There are things you cannot actually learn from a book, or a chart. How many trains go by on a Monday morning is just one of those things. I am grateful for the learning.
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Paper Canoes at the Newburgh Boat House. Photo by Paula Z. Segal
Footnotes:
*Have you been in Eastern Rockaway when the planes fly overhead, heading into or out of JFK directly over the largest concentration of public housing residents in New York City? These trains are like that. And like the planes in Rockaway, they are a constant feature.
** A few months ago I met a woman from Bakkan ND. She is making a film about the social world of the North Dakota oil fields, specifically, the women there. Keep your eyes out for that. 
*** I do recommend Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York Hardcover by Ted Steinberg, if you want to learn something more about New York City as the land that was created from water.
Paula Z. Segal is the Executive Director & Legal Director of the NYC Community Land Access Program at 596 Acres

Water is Life & Nukes Are Not The Answer

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The flotilla leaves Verplanck. Photo by Sunita Prasad

by Sunita Prasad

We are having a beautiful day on the water.

We woke up this morning in a boat junkyard in Verplanck. Boats of all shapes and sizes are packed together on every usable inch. Where there aren’t boats there are cranes to move the boats, and where there are neither of these there are Winnebagos. No one is home in either the boats or the RVs, but the King Marine office door of the big house on the lot stays open all day. That’s where Randy King and his son, also named Randy, entertain a rotating cast of friendly fishing types in a way very reminiscent of a barber shop. The younger Randy looks like he walked out of a 70s soft drink commercial, with his shaggy haircut and impossibly wide, bright smile. He is frequently called away to operate a crane or direct boat trailer traffic.

There is one clearing behind the house which remains free of machinery. To direct us to it, young Randy turned on his smile and said, “Just head away from all the chaos and you’ll find it.”

This is where we’ve camped, in the shadow of an enormous houseboat which beached and wrecked during Hurricane Sandy.

To get to King Marine, via boat or car, you must go past the Entergy Corporation’s Indian Point nuclear power plant. From the water the reactor’s domed towers are very obvious, often cloaked in steam from the river water used as coolant. From the road it’s equally clear to see by the sudden presence of tall barbed wire fences in this otherwise residential area. The wire heralds the Entergy sign.

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Indian Point Nuclear Energy Plant. Photo by Roger Witherspoon

After setting up our camp at King Marine last night, we were shuttled by Jeanne Shaw of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC) to a lovely park about five miles north in Peekskill. Members of IPSEC and Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) were gathering in a gazebo, each bearing a dish to help feed us hungry paddlers.

Yuko Tonohira and Ayumi Hirai of Sloths Against Nuclear State (SANS) were kneeling on the ground, folding gigantic paper origami cranes, each of which bore the radioactive symbol on its back. These beautiful gestures of peace and resistance were quickly drawing a crowd of kids from the nearby playground and providing a great photo op for their parents.

Eventually the twenty or so folks gathered each had a plate piled with homemade goods and we all st down to talk at a long string of picnic tables. Susan Van Dolsen of SAPE told us about a natural gas pipeline project proposed to run across an electric transmission line just a few hundred feet away from Entergy’s Indian Point reactor. The pipeline would carry Spectra Energy Corporation’s high pressure gas extracted from the radon-heavy Marcellus Shale. Compressor stations for such a pipeline are known to emit tons of highly toxic pollutants into the air annually. The likely leakage of methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, also contributes to climate change.

And having an explosive gas pipeline go right past a nuclear reactor…well… you don’t have to be the NRC to question that idea.

Marilyn Elie of IPSEC pointed out that there is no evacuation plan in place for the event of an Indian Point disaster. A former FEMA director reported in the James Lee Witt Report that “Indian Point is impossible to evacuate.” Over 20 million people live and work within 50 miles of Indian Point.

Even without a major disaster, the plant is harming the river every day. Each day Indian Point sucks in 2.5 billion gallons of river water, killing fish in the process. The water is then released back into the river so hot that it kills them on the way out, too. Environmental rganizations including Riverkeeper have sued the EPA to force Entergy to install a closed cooling system. Entergy has stalled on doing so, since this would be much more expensive infrastructure. It’s the kind of legal battle that could hit Entergy’s finances hard enough to close the plant.

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Ayumi, Paula, and the neighborhood kids fold cranes. Photo by Sunita Prasad

As the conversation at the picnic table moved to alternatives to carbon and nukes, many people agree that a more distributed network of power, such as solar panels on individual homes, would be a good answer to centralized power, which only serves to… centralize power. One of our SeaChange paddlers, Paula, questioned the settlement on solar, noting that, as it stands, most manufacturing of solar panels currently relies on lots of coal energy and under-regulated labor markets. These are tough questions and will take a lot of creativity to solve.

In response, Yuko told us a little about how nuclear power is viewed in Japan post-Fukushima. For the communities who have been affected by the disaster, and really much of the Japanese public in general at this point, it is not a question of how much energy is produced by what means.

It’s a question of food quality. Water quality. A place to raise children, and just live a decent life. Neither nuclear power nor continued carbon emissions are worth the risk they pose to all of those things.

Yuko has brought a device that reads radiation levels. Here, five miles away from Entergy’s Indian Point plant, it reads 0.2 microSievert/hr. This is 4X higher than Manhattan. A pretty high level for a place where people live, breathe, eat, play.

Another local activist named Duna drove us back to our camp by the plant. She promises to meet us at our event with Riverkeeper in Ossining with some ice cream. All of the organizations up here –Riverkeeper, IPSEC, SAPE– are holding out hope for a Carbon-Free and Nuke-Free future. They assure us we’ll see them at the People’s Climate March in a contingent that says just that.

This morning as we put our boats in next to the houseboat that Sandy beached, there was a huge cloud of steam billowing from Indian Point. It won’t be doing that for much longer, now. I am sure it’s going to close.

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 Members of IPSEC & SAPE. Photo by Sunita Prasad

View from the River

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Alongside the Clearwater in Kingston, NY. Photo credit: Jodiah Jacobs.

by Kenny Bruno

On Friday I had the privilege, and the just plain fun, of joining for a day of Sea Change 2014’s epic journey from Troy to Manhattan. The Sea Change team, a sort of ragtag group (I mean that in a friendly way) with folks from places like Barcelona and Brooklyn (where else?) is doing a number of seriously ambitious things with this single odyssey:

- Reviving and ancient paper boat technology
- Recruiting residents of the Hudson Valley to the largest climate rally in US history – the Sept 21 People’s Climate March in NYC
- Highlighting the connection of climate change to the threats to the Hudson River, especially the risk of transporting fracked crude and tar sands crude on the river.

While these themes may seem lofty, even grandiose, the tone of the group is humble and warm. The combination is attractive. For example I arrived in the morning to the Summinski Innski, a small inn on the river’s East Bank in Tivoli, NY. The proprietor, hearing of their purpose, had given his rooms over to the paddlers free of charge. This is what happens when you do something cool: People want to be part of it.

We were late getting started, because two of our paddlers had spent the morning at Bard College, where they inspired students to fill the college’s bus to the Climate March. But finally our horn – actually a vuvuzuela of 2010 World Cup Soccer fame – sounded and our four small vessels pushed off from shore into a strong headwind. The first thing I noticed was that these canoes, while made of paper, look more like modern canoes of fiberglass. They are not as flimsy as they sound. The other thing I noticed is that they’re small – as small as those I’ve paddled around calm lakes in New England. And the third thing is that two of them ride very low in the water. That gave me pause, but I trusted these game paddlers and jumped in the bow of one of the low riders and started pulling my weight.

While getting into the meditative rhythm of paddling, random thoughts flow through the mind:

* This was the main mode of transport for the Lenape Indians. Close to shore, feeling the chop, getting sprayed, seeing the vegetation and the jumping fish, moving slow, I could transport myself back in time and marvel at their mastery of the land and water. (Of course modern life interrupted us in the form of the wake from yachts and tankers. But for the most part we didn’t see other boats.)

* The Hudson River and Valley are so beautiful, much more so than one appreciates from the roads. The river is cleaner than it was a generation ago, and the shores more forested. Why, after spending billions of dollars to clean the river of PCBS we would allow a new risk of spilled crude oil, cannot be explained without words like “insanity,” “greed,” and “bastards.”

* The Hudson is a mighty king, the most powerful force in the region, and must be respected. I felt small, in the way one feels when looking at a sky full of stars.

As it turns out, I was soon to feel even smaller. As we attempted to cross to the West Bank in order to arrive in Kingston, suddenly we heard one of our comrades shout “we’re going down!” They had not capsized so much as simply submerged, as waves washed over faster than they could be bailed out. My canoe went back and gathered some items that had floated off, while a larger and more stable canoe performed, very admirably, a rescue. And then we went back to the Kruger Island close to the East Bank, to lick our wounds, eat, and make a contingency plan. There were no injuries and no immediate danger. But it was in that moment where two of our crew were in the water and my own canoe was starting to take on water, that I felt really very insignificant and vulnerable.

After a while we pushed on, this time wisely staying on the east bank. As the afternoon advanced, the winds stayed strong, and the moment came when the tide would turn against us, we realized we wouldn’t make it to our destination in Kingston that day. But local singers of Sea Chanties awaited us at the Kingston Maritime Museum, so we pulled out at a marina in Red Hook and cheated a bit by getting a ride to Kingston, leaving the canoes to be picked up the next morning.

During the paddling, and later at dinner, we got to planning and plotting some events to take place in New York City in a couple of weeks. We want the Sloop Clearwater to join us. We want the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop. We want to paddle past the United Nations, where the Climate Summit will take place. We want to do a ceremony on a small island, to symbolize the islands that are already disappearing due to global warming. Some of these ideas will come to pass, some won’t. There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm, and certainly no bad ideas on a gorgeous sunny day on the Hudson River.

Kenny Bruno
Kingston, NY
Sept 5, 2014

Reflections on the Water

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A’yen & Ian. Photo by Ally Barlow

by Elizabeth Press

I had never been on a multi-day boating trip before this Seachange flotilla. I sort of imagined it to be like bike touring, which I have done a bunch of. Without a SAG wagon for support and to carry your gear, you need to pack light, make sure your belongings are protected from rain and organized in a way that you can get to the things that you need quickly and easily, and you need to make sure you eat enough and drink enough throughout the day. In planning group biking outings, we brainstorm meals and folks to cook each night, we set the route (that we often fine tune on tour), plan places to camp, fix our own bikes, see roads in a different way than we might in a car, and slow down life for a period of time.

A paddling trip is sort of like this, but also incredibly different.  Time does slow down and expand on the river, but there are new factors to consider. When you canoe the Hudson River, you need to pay attention to the tides and plan on paddling when the tides are in your favor. When it is windy, you can’t just draft the boat in front of you the way you can on a bike to save energy. You can however try a course closer to the shore. When the sun is beaming down on you, there aren’t trees to shade you. When you have a craving for ice cream, you can’t stop at the next local business that you see. When it starts to storm you can’t paddle until you find a nice place to guerrilla camp. When you bike tour you are on your own bicycle. You know how it works and fits. On the SeaChange flotilla you are on boats made of paper and wood. You use paddles that might be a little too long or too short.

But this hyper-attention to the tools I understand to be part of the purpose of this trip.

By putting ourselves in paper boats, we meditate on the fragility of not only our vessels but the water as it comes. We approach towns some of us have been to –might even say we know– from the water. This provides a whole new perspective on place. We engage communities not only to celebrate our tour but to learn what is happening in these towns that we paddle through and to educate and resist the forces that are threatening the river and our environment. Here is a collage of images from the first few days of paddling down the Hudson River. It is a glimpse into our trip and an appreciation of being able to carve out time to have these sorts of experiences. The video is set to the music of fellow boaters A’yen Tran and Ian Curry.

Seachange Video Montage: Troy to Hudson from eeepee on Vimeo.

The Tracks, Not the Driver: SeaChange Learns About Albany’s Bomb Trains

The SeaChange Paper Boats Pass Buckeye Partners’ Bakken crude oil transshipment point in Albany. Photo by Kevin Buckland

by Kevin Buckland

The first thing you realize when you find yourself in a paper boat on a wild river, is that the situation is already wild enough that nothing else seems impossible.

We, as a global community, are in uncertain waters - waters that are warming and acidifying as we raise the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Our safe harbour becomes everyday more improbable. In these times, we are forced to cast away the story that is already written for a story we cannot yet imagine. Hope; and the courage to endeavour the impossible is our only real option - logic has failed us, so we try dreams.

There is a sparkle that emerges in people’s eyes when you tell them you are traveling to Manhattan on a paper canoe. It is a look of wonder in being given a space to believe what you want to believe, despite what logic tells you. It is this same playful willingness that will get us through the troubled times ahead.

The dominant logic of now tells us that hope is impossible: that constant growth towards apocalypse is inevitable; that no one can stop the train because no one is driving it. But remember that it is the tracks, not the driver, that control where a train goes; and it is the workers that lay the rails. A small change, a well placed nail, lures a train onto a slow curve to another track, onto another story.

In Albany, the trains are explosive. We took a “toxic tour” of Albany and saw some of the 400 to 500 railcars with fracked Bakken Crude in their bellies. This crude releases volatile gases as the train winds its way from the wrecked fields of North Dakota to the Hudson. These are sealed containers; pressure builds. By the time these railcars reach Albany they are pressurized with explosive gas. Most of these railcars are not designed for pressurized cargo, and should not legally be carrying it. A rupture could set off a string of detonations, like that of Lac Megantic that took 47 lives in July of 2013. Here the blast radius extends past city hall - the state government might just end up detonating itself. There have already been two rail accidents in Albany.

We were joined by members of a local group of concerned citizens that have formed a group called “PAUSE” (People of Albany United for Safe Energy) and have been demanding these trains not pass through populated areas. Where the trains currently park, an explosion could mean 5,000 deaths. On the south end of the city, next to the Ezra Prentice Estates, the basketball court is separated from the railcars only by a chainlink fence. Children play there.

The threat of explosion isn’t the only danger these bomb trains bring. Yuri, a local geomicrobiologist, (with whom SeaChange will be taking water samples), told us that health impacts are already rising in this low-income minority community. The “sour crude” is unrefined, so the secret cocktails of destructive chemicals are still in the trains, these can include neurological disruptors and other things we are not allowed to know. A community member tells us, “The rail cars are painted black to hide the spills;” a disconcerting smell surrounds them. The community at Ezra Prentice Estates is already afflicted by the myriad of structural racism that plagues New York State, struggling to keep its youth from being stolen by New York’s privatized incarceration business. Now it deals with racialized environmental injustice. These rail cars loom over their future like life-sentences.

Thanks to good community organizing, these bomb trains are no longer just dark rumblings in the night, but instead have become the center of a local fight to keep New York truly frack-free, free not just from extraction but also from transportation. All over the state, pipelines and boilers are being planned and installed. To keep New York safe these must be stopped on all fronts. The Sane Energy Project is developing a mapping tool, launching next month, to help communities organize for sane energy solutions.

SeaChange Paddlers Map Sane Energy on the Hudson. Photo by Sane Energy Project.

Meanwhile, corporations all across North America are scraping the bottom of the energy barrel, and corporations such as Global Partners is proposing to bring the dirtiest oil on the planet along the Hudson via a “virtual pipeline” of trains and boats. A crude oil heating facility has been proposed for Albany, to use fracked gas to turn the “sour crude” sweet, and get it onto barges towards New York, New Jersey, and the open ocean.

Whether it is refined or unrefined, floats or sinks: a spill of any of these concoctions would mean disaster for the Hudson. The oil that isn’t spilled and successfully burned means disaster for our atmosphere. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone including these corporations and their investors - we all share the same waters and atmosphere. The future of our planet depends on all of us keeping these dark parts of our earth in the ground and out of our air and water. There must be other stories besides destruction.

With our paper boats, we are exploring other narratives besides the explosive and corrosive future proposed by private corporate capital. After our toxic tour we visited the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, a fifteen minute walk from where our paper boats landed. Scott showed us around the center  - an elegant greenhouse with sounds of babbling streams inside and perennial tomates suspended like chandeliers, which felt more like a jungle than a city. In the greenhouse and the lot that surrounds it, they are experimenting with deviant futures. The closed-loop aquaponic systems bring together bacteria, plants, fish, snails, and ducks to create mutually beneficial ecosystems. The fish eat the bugs, the fish poop provides nitrogen to the watercress, then the water loops back to be bio-remediated by a floating island of plants whose expansive root systems grows into the water like a flood. These non-linear systems are deft in their simplicity (especially compared with the 100+ chemicals used in fracking), and are designed to make urban food production accessible to more of us.

I left the Radix Center with a sparkle in my eye- the same look I see when I tell people of our journey. Tomorrow our paper boats will journey on again, towards Manhattan and a global mobilization for climate justice. There is no certainty we will get to our destination, but we must try.

SeaChange LAUNCHES

imagePhoto by Jonathan Flanders

by Sunita Prasad

At 7AM on Saturday morning, our studio at the Contemporary Artist Center in Troy was still an island nation of volcanoes overflowing with paper trimmings, mountains of dry-bags, and peninsulas of paddles. It was time to clean up.

We clattered up and down the stairs, never mind the noise. Most of the residents at the CAC were up with us, anyhow, preparing to come see the event that we’ve been talking their ears off about for two weeks.

By 8AM we had loaded most of our gear into Tom’s van. Tom had been watching our progress on the paper boats for two weeks, even as we watched his progress on the beautiful new doors in the kitchen of the CAC. He answered our mayday call early Saturday morning to come pick up our stuff. Our time in Troy has been marked by these heroic extensions of helping hands.

At 9AM we were supposed to be convening at the south end of the Troy Farmers Market but… none of our cars had returned from dropping off the boats to the city marina to pick us up. We stood there in the hastily swept out studio, holding our brightly colored flags reading “We All Live Downstream” and bearing our anchor-in-fist logo, panicking slightly.

At last, we heard the sound of wheels on the steep driveway – Dylan and Shawn had returned with the cars! We all ran around trying to figure out who should go in what car for a few more minutes than I am willing to admit in print, and then: we were off!

Azuré and Christian, the caretakers of the CAC, who had been taking excellent care of us, were waiting at River & State Streets with the paper boat we planned to parade through the market. We unhitched it from their truck and looked around. There were five of us present for this procession.

imageThe procession. Photo by Jonathan Flanders

A few text messages later and a crowd of twenty, decked out in life-jackets and humming into bailers as amplifiers, hoisted boat and flags and began our march through the market. The Troy Farmers Market is always a festive event, and today the crowd parted to smile, wave, and ask “What the heck is this?!” as we swayed and sang and brandished our banners. Monica Staats raised her voice to explain,

“We’re going all the way to New York City, to the People’s Climate March in a bunch of paper boats just like this one!” By the time we reached the marina, the crowd was more than fifty, and we lowered the boat gently to the grass and formed a circle around it.

I looked around the circle from under my “adventure-bonnet,” as SeaChange paddler Matt Tyson calls my spangled straw hat.

imageMe in my “adventure bonnet.” Photo by Jonathan Flanders

As I gave my speech of welcoming, around the circle I saw Hezzie & John Johanson, the director and project manager of the CAC who had hosted us for two crazy weeks of building these beautiful paper canoes. I saw Sylvie Brown and her husband Kirsten, who showed up again and again to apply paper and shellac to the boats. I saw Ellen, Guy, Blaine, Frank, Matt and Alanna, all of whom also helped with building and documentation. Guy even brought us a cake when all the kraft paper and wood glue had rendered us desperate for sugar one afternoon. All of these people just met us two weeks ago. But they had connected with SeaChange’s ebullient spirit of climate justice through participatory art immediately, and all rushed to pick up a line to this ambitious endeavor and heave it up into being.

And then there was us, the collective I’ve been working with since February for this day. Jean, Dylan, Kevin, and Amaranta. My gratitude to all of them rendered me momentarily speechless. I was lucky that Kevin and Amaranta had the floor, leading us in a song as we passed a painted scroll about climate change made by Rachel Schragis.

When I alighted on the dock, I saw that at the far end was another new and incredibly supportive friend: David Borton in his 25-foot solar engine boat, Sol. David was loading our food and extra provisions into Sol, in which he would accompany us as a support boat for the first few legs of the journey.

imageDavid Borton aboard Sol. Photo by Jonathan Flanders

The next half-hour or so was a blur as we made boat-assignments, got all the paddlers equipped with life vests and paddles, distributed gear, finished attaching oarlocks to the skiff, found and lost and found our waiver forms again, realized we were going to miss the tide if we didn’t hurry, boarded the boats, unhitched our lines, and… Launched.

Our Troy friends waved from shore, getting smaller the way they do. The river got wider, the trees got thicker, the sun traveled up to its noon position. Jean was behind me at the oars of Le Massicot. Matt was in front of me, steering us with a paddle. To my left were EP and Andrea Rollefson, paddling in Helen, our newest boat built entirely in Troy and making her maiden voyage. To my right were Dylan and Kendra, in The Charles, our dandy boat, which we restored this week to ship-shape. Further on were Kevin and Amaranta, paddling energetically in Sylvie Carson, the boat we named after two teenagers who helped us paper it at the Clearwater Festival. Brian and Onur were cruising in our solar canoe, Mom, gathering energy for a battery we store in a picnic cooler. Sylvie Brown was there in her little one-seater. And Shawn Forno, still a little damp from a capsize by the dock, was paddling in little Nessie, our tiniest paper canoe.

I’ll admit it, I cried tears of joy. This project is such a labor of love. It exists at a cross-section of craft and community and, most importantly, storytelling that can push climate justice forward in the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond. Please continue to follow us here on this journal to hear those stories and wish us well on this magnificent adventure.

imagePhoto by Jonathan Flanders

WATCH this time-lapse of the SeaChangers building a paper boat. Come out tomorrow at 10AM to see this boat, fondly named Helen, begin her maiden voyage from the city marina in Troy NY!

Tagged: #Vimeo
It turns out it's hard to catch a paper canoe. We rowed up to Annabelle Basin and grouped up to hear Jens' rescue instructional. We simulated a capsize by capsizing ourselves = excuse for a swim in the East River. Almost out of the water again.
U Thant. Named after U Thant, the third Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1961 to 1971 and a native of Burma.  Some of U Thant's personal belongs are buried in a time capsule on the island. What is this magically forested point?  Why is it not a park... or is it a park? Cowboy Jean and Sunita with NBBC's Mark A.

Rescue training with northbrooklynboatclub and a row to U Thant Island.

Every canoe save the war canoes?

Crew Training at North Brooklyn Boat Club: Newtown Creek to Water Treatment Plant

Two Day Safety & Technique Class at NBBC

Dear SeaChange Crew:
Please join us this week in Brooklyn for a two-day canoe/paddle safety and technique class, one with a rescue drill, generously offered by our friends at North Brooklyn Boat Club.  

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Launch of the Sylvie Carson in the Newtown Creek, video by Patrick Kiley.

Photos from our Paper Boat Building workshop at North Brooklyn Boat Club this past weekend.  Boat #4 in the fleet, the “Sylvie Carter” is taking shape nicely.  Looking good, everyone!  

Calling all makers and re-makers, thinkers and rethinkers, composers and decomposers!Please join come to The Brooklyn Museum this July 31st for the next People&#8217;s Climate Sporatorium*: a monthly space for artists, curators, cultural producers, technologists, performers, and activists to network, incubate and present works-in-progress in support of the world&#8217;s largest climate march and mobilization this September. Learn more at http://peoplesclimatemarch.org/ People&#8217;s Climate Sporatorium*Thursday, July 316:30-9:30pm@ Brooklyn Museum200 Eastern PkwyTrains: 2, 3, 4, 5, SThis month we present the Sporatorium* in two acts:ACT I: A Collective Journey in a Submerged Unconscious: A Ritual of Alignment with Swoon and Friends(6:30-7:30pm)We begin with a special tour and presentation by the artist Swoon. Her monumental site-specific installation, &#8220;Submerged Motherlands&#8221;, on display at the museum currently, engages with climate change as a response to the catastrophic Hurricane Sandy that struck the Atlantic Coast in 2012, and Doggerland, a landmass that once connected Great Britain and Europe and was destroyed by a tsunami 8,000 years ago. These places and events separated by thousands of years and miles form a salient image to draw upon and to explore the numerous and complex results of climate change.Instructions: Please meet on the steps of the Brooklyn museum at 6:30pm sharp, and look for the oracle. They will show you where to go. This will be a story-journey through the dry waters of the world that will flow on into an alignment of ideas. This ritual will prepare us to cultivate our own capacity to overthrow the narrative that has captured the world. Strongly recommended for all dissidents. * * * *ACT II: Plotting, Scheming and Dreaming in the Anthropocene(7:30-9:30pm)In this act we continue to form the foundation for a consortium of cultural practitioners engaging anthropogenic climate change and its consequences. From artistic interventions, performances, installations, creative actions, data visualizations, design, and community-based practice, we expand the discourse on the geologic turn to include aesthetic, curatorial, and artistic strategies for confronting, criticizing, and creating. With the historic People&#8217;s Climate March fast approaching, climate concerned creatives have been developing projects large and small. From exhibitions to sea-faring flotillas, critical journals to wheat-pasted agit-pop, stroller brigades to beekeeper blocks, come hear from Sporatorium Artists-In-Residence and other participants to learn what&#8217;s in the works and how you might plug in. Or let us know what you&#8217;re up to. Or what you&#8217;d like to be up to. We&#8217;ll have time for presentations and for small group break-outs to allow for networking and planning. * * * * NOTE: Because of time constraints with the venue we will be punctual at the front and tail ends of the evening. Please plan accordingly. ALSO NOTE: Participants in the Sporatorium are welcome to see the Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum for a discounted admission fee of $10 on July 31st. AND YET ANOTHER NOTE: we&#8217;ll rendezvous for post-Sporatorium drinks at a nearby watering hole, TBD. COMING SOON: an open-source arts convergence space in Bushwick for climate mobilization related planning and production. (August + September). * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *SPORATORIUM DEFINED: a) Ancient Greek: the Sporeio is a public space for germinating seedsb) Contemporary: Spores are the reproductive units of fungal mycelium, an underground network of networks that anchors the soil and mingles with all matters of plants- sharing space and swapping nutrients.c) Colloquial: S.P.O.R.E: Special Projects Organizing and Research Exchange******* Image credit: event photo graphic uses art by Swoon.

Calling all makers and re-makers, thinkers and rethinkers, composers and decomposers!

Please join come to The Brooklyn Museum this July 31st for the next People’s Climate Sporatorium*: a monthly space for artists, curators, cultural producers, technologists, performers, and activists to network, incubate and present works-in-progress in support of the world’s largest climate march and mobilization this September. Learn more at http://peoplesclimatemarch.org/ 

People’s Climate Sporatorium*
Thursday, July 31
6:30-9:30pm
@ Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Pkwy
Trains: 2, 3, 4, 5, S

This month we present the Sporatorium* in two acts:

ACT I: A Collective Journey in a Submerged Unconscious: A Ritual of Alignment with Swoon and Friends
(6:30-7:30pm)

We begin with a special tour and presentation by the artist Swoon. Her monumental site-specific installation, “Submerged Motherlands”, on display at the museum currently, engages with climate change as a response to the catastrophic Hurricane Sandy that struck the Atlantic Coast in 2012, and Doggerland, a landmass that once connected Great Britain and Europe and was destroyed by a tsunami 8,000 years ago. These places and events separated by thousands of years and miles form a salient image to draw upon and to explore the numerous and complex results of climate change.

Instructions: Please meet on the steps of the Brooklyn museum at 6:30pm sharp, and look for the oracle. They will show you where to go. This will be a story-journey through the dry waters of the world that will flow on into an alignment of ideas. This ritual will prepare us to cultivate our own capacity to overthrow the narrative that has captured the world. Strongly recommended for all dissidents. 

* * * *

ACT II: Plotting, Scheming and Dreaming in the Anthropocene
(7:30-9:30pm)

In this act we continue to form the foundation for a consortium of cultural practitioners engaging anthropogenic climate change and its consequences. From artistic interventions, performances, installations, creative actions, data visualizations, design, and community-based practice, we expand the discourse on the geologic turn to include aesthetic, curatorial, and artistic strategies for confronting, criticizing, and creating. 

With the historic People’s Climate March fast approaching, climate concerned creatives have been developing projects large and small. From exhibitions to sea-faring flotillas, critical journals to wheat-pasted agit-pop, stroller brigades to beekeeper blocks, come hear from Sporatorium Artists-In-Residence and other participants to learn what’s in the works and how you might plug in. Or let us know what you’re up to. Or what you’d like to be up to. We’ll have time for presentations and for small group break-outs to allow for networking and planning. 

* * * * 

NOTE: Because of time constraints with the venue we will be punctual at the front and tail ends of the evening. Please plan accordingly. 

ALSO NOTE: Participants in the Sporatorium are welcome to see the Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum for a discounted admission fee of $10 on July 31st. 

AND YET ANOTHER NOTE: we’ll rendezvous for post-Sporatorium drinks at a nearby watering hole, TBD. 

COMING SOON: an open-source arts convergence space in Bushwick for climate mobilization related planning and production. (August + September). 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

*SPORATORIUM DEFINED: 

a) Ancient Greek: the Sporeio is a public space for germinating seeds

b) Contemporary: Spores are the reproductive units of fungal mycelium, an underground network of networks that anchors the soil and mingles with all matters of plants- sharing space and swapping nutrients.

c) Colloquial: S.P.O.R.E: Special Projects Organizing and Research Exchange

******

* Image credit: event photo graphic uses art by Swoon.