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Earth Day Rally Speech: "Why are we continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again?"

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

Hi everyone! My name is Grace Webb-I am a Junior at Oyster River High School and am on the Executive Board of Seacoast Students for Sustainability.

In September of 2021, the Town Council of Durham voted to remove the Mill Pond Dam. In lieu of the Town Council’s decision to remove the structure, a public petition brought the vote to Durham residents on March 8th of this year. A swift political polarization followed, with many in support of “voting no” on Article 2–that is, to remove the dam, and many others urging voters to choose “yes”—to restore the structure. The vote to remove the dam ultimately passed through the town vote, deciding to eradicate the Mill Pond Dam and free the lower part of the Oyster River.

While the environmental benefits were reason enough to vote to remove the Mill Pond Dam, it is necessary to address the argument for historical preservation, made in supporting the restoration of the dam. Many value the historic significance of the dam, as it has been a notable Durham landmark for over a century. If preserving the history of this location is the goal, then we ought to recognize the history that came well before the building of the Mill Pond Dam.

Our modern seacoast community dwells on Indigenous land; the region was originally named “N’Dakinna” by the Pennacook-Abenaki people. The Oyster River sustained the indigenous population for thousands of years—physically, socially, and spiritually. As their extensive history was stifled only centuries ago, it is up to us to restore the resource to its natural state. Here is Durham, claiming to be a town driven by goals of creating a district bolstering diversity and equity—yet disregarding indigenous history in support of maintaining a costly structure, bound to weaken once again and lead us to a repeating crossroads.

It was ethics, morality, and science which backed the community’s final decision to support the demolition and freeing of the lower Oyster River. My hope is that this can be the first step of many in changing the approach surrounding ethnic-environmental issues.

I’m coming to you today not only as a student, not only as an environmental activist, but as a concerned teenager. My generation has been left with the weight of responsibility to amend the mistakes caused by those before us. It can be discouraging to feel like the only progress being made is backwards, so having this turnout–seeing the faces of people ready and willing to fight for climate justice, gives me a glimmer of hope for the future of restoring and protecting our environment.

It has been decades of environmental ignorance that has gotten us to this state. Yet it has defined the time we are in as when the world is more open to change than ever before. Don’t let this moment be the end of your activism—let it be just the beginning in your fight, in our fight, for a greener planet.

And so I’ll leave you with just one question to think about: We are told as kids and as students to never make the same mistake twice. So why are we continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again when it comes to preserving our planet for current and future generations to come?

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