WCES is Working to Keep Watertown Safe
The Watertown Committee for Environmental Safety educates and advocates for a safe and healthy town.
On the third Saturday of each month, members of the Watertown Committee for Environmental Safety and other local residents can be found in Watertown Square, spreading a message of unity as part of the group's monthly peace vigil. Banners that read "Lay off wars, not people" and "Hugs, not war" are held high as cars and pedestrians pass by.
"My favorite is when one of our members brings both his peace flag and his United States flag," said WCES president, Eileen McCluskey. "I love the idea of the U.S. being seen as a force of social justice and peace in the world."
The monthly peace vigil is just one of the many events and outreach efforts created by WCES. Founded in 1979, according to McCluskey, the formation of the group was inspired by the nuclear waste accident at Three Mile Island. A team of Watertown residents took it upon themselves to begin monitoring the local environment.
A nuclear freeze group was formed in early 1980s. Then, working closely with the U.S. Army, WCES embarked upon the successful clean up of the Arsenal – an area of land along the Charles River that was once suffocating with toxicity. Today, the area features a theater, shops and a Panera Bread.
McCluskey herself was not a member of WCES during this period of safeguarding against nuclear waste, but another tragic event in America's history prompted her to take action in 2001.
"I got involved after 9/11/01," McCluskey remembers. "The story is I was out doing errands, I was at the Watertown Square post office. I heard a gentle voice as I walked by some women I hadn't really noticed before and one of them was asking, 'Are you concerned about the bombing of Afghanistan?' I whipped around and looked at her and said yes. She handed me a flier to an educational event of WCES's."
Today WCES has around 100 volunteer members, according to McCluskey, and has three task forces – Local Environmental, Climate Change and Peace and Justice.
"The Local Environmental task force focuses on Watertown's specific issues," McCluskey said. "We had a recycle fair this past spring. It was very successful. People were able to bring different kinds of recyclables to the fair and learn about what the current recycling program does.
"You got to sort through a sample pile of materials and learn where each item would go for recycling. When you were done sorting, you got a free WCES waterbottle which is made of aluminum. There were other activities – a document shredder and people could come with their documents and they would be shredded and recycled. All clean fun."
The Climate Change task force, a relatively new effort, is working to encourage elected officials to support renewable energy and the green jobs that come with the effort, as well as looking to start an educational program at Watertown Middle School. The Peace and Justice task force advocates for the return of troops from the Middle East and seeks ways in which views and ideas can be exchanged on a global level without the presence of military force.
McCluskey said she is proud to be part of such an educated and passionate group and looks forward to the WCES Annual Holiday and Dessert Conversation on Jan. 2 at 6:30 at St. John's.
"It's very simple," she said. "People come with their favorite desserts, WCES provides non-alcoholic beverages and we sit around in the parlor. We take a look at where we are now as an organization and where we want to go. You don't have to be a member to attend."