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Ram: Tilting At Windmills

The complexities of climate change sometimes make me feel like Don Quixote tilting at windmills - charging toward invisible and elusive enemies like political apathy, the polluting byproducts of capitalism, and lowering the energy consumption that powers our daily activities.

But while some days make me feel that way, as far as I know, Tom Gray never did.

Tom was the kind of man who was kind in his approach but firm in his beliefs. He spent most of his professional life in Washington, DC as a pioneer in renewable energy and wind power. His second life, the one that gratefully brought him into our orbit, was as a very active Norwich resident and citizen.

Tom’s chosen retirement project would have seemed to many like tilting at windmills. Starting in 2013, he began to amass a large twitter following to raise awareness on climate change. Not only that, but he wanted to do it with factual information and resource sharing - without a single personal attack.

That made Tom’s work all the more challenging, since personal attacks are hallmarks of the twitterverse - but at the time of his passing, he had more than 77,000 twitter followers and was recognized by Carbon Brief as the 11th most influential tweeter on climate change nationally.

What’s more, Tom used his clout to stand up for the voiceless. His last post on twitter was an article about the disproportionate impact adverse weather events have on communities of color, those left behind without the resources or support network to get out or get help.

Tom always showed up. He found the beauty in everything around him, in each of the people he met, and in the windmills – or turbines – he believed held so much promise.

Tom may have appeared to be tilting at windmills, but he never hesitated to give of himself. And, as I think about what’s going on in the world today, I think of Tom and try each day to give whatever I can of myself to the world.

At the end of August, Tom suffered a fall in his home and sustained a fatal head injury. But he left a legacy that will have long term benefits for the planet and the people he loved so fiercely.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Tom Gray and I wish him well - wherever the wind has taken him.

Kesha Ram is a former state legislator and the interim director of the Center for Whole Communities in Burlington. She will study in the Master of Public Administration program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government this fall.
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